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Secretary Rice says Cyprus solution ''very important''
2006-04-25 16:08:48

Nicosia, Apr 25 (CNA) -- US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that the US does not have a specific proposal on Cyprus, adding that she looks forward to talking with Greek and Turkish officials ''to see what might provide a basis for a proposal going forward''.

Replying to a question on Cyprus, during her flight to Athens, she said ''everyone was disappointed that the Greek Cypriots rejected the Annan plan.''

''I think there is recognition that the resolution of Cyprus is very important, particularly given the complexities that exist because of Cyprus' membership in the European Union'', the US State Secretary said, adding that ''we don't have a specific proposal but there are, of course, discussions going on that I will look forward to talking to the Greeks about and with the Turks about to see what might provide a basis for a proposal going forward.''

She also said that ''understandably, I think Secretary General Annan would want to know that there is a basis for moving forward before a new proposal went forward and I think everybody is in the mode right now of trying to ascertain whether or not that basis might exist.''

Secretary Rice arrived early today in Athens, where she will meet with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and will hold talks with her Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyiannis. After Athens Rice will visit Ankara where she will meet with Turkish officials and later on she will attend the NATO Ministerial meeting in Bulgaria.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Mathew Bryza said during a briefing in Washington on Monday that Rice's trip to Athens and Turkey aims to discuss ''how best to reenergize the negotiations that are led by the United Nations secretary-general,'' adding that UN Secretary-General Annan ''is in the lead.''

''The key to restarting the negotiations is to convince him, the parties need to convince him that they are operating in a spirit of goodwill, that they're both committed to a just and lasting and comprehensive settlement that will produce a unified, bizonal, bicommunal Cyprus, and that's our policy. That's what we've supported for years,'' he added.

Referring to Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat's statement that negotiations can start from scratch, Bryza said that it is ''an interesting statement,'' adding that ''I think it's probably important and for all of the parties to proceed from what has already been agreed, which is not a final agreement and I'm talking about the Annan Plan.''

According to Bryza, the Annan Plan, rejected by the Greek Cypriots and accepted by Turkish Cypriots, ''provides a framework from which to begin and it needs to be renegotiated.''

''But I hope that the parties won't wander too far from the framework that has emerged through years, four years of painstaking negotiations,'' Bryza added.

On another question about the Annan plan, Bryza said that it is not the US call ''as to which plan the parties use,'' adding that Secretary-General Annan is in charge of the negotiations.

''It's up to the parties to convince him, the secretary- general, that they have sufficient goodwill to re-engage in good faith negotiations. It's not for us to determine whether or not the secretary-general decides it's the Annan Plan or nothing,'' he said, adding ''what we're saying is the Annan Plan got the parties close, got them into the neighbourhood, and if the parties decide to change the landscape of the neighborhood a bit, that's up to them.

''We would comment that it would be wise to stay in that neighborhood, though, and not begin totally from scratch, notwithstanding what Mr. Talat is reported to have said,'' he noted.

Replying to a question on Turkey's EU process, Bryza said that Secretary Rice will discuss with her interlocutors in Turkey ''the question of Cyprus and the reality that Turkey undertook certainly obligations last October, most notably to implement the Ankara protocol extending the EU-Turkey Customs Union to the Republic of Cyprus.''

''That's an obligation. It's unclear when that obligation needs to be fulfilled. It needs to be done, though, in due course, quickly, as quickly as possible. And to get to the point where it can be implemented, which means that Turkey opens up all of its seaports to Greek Cypriot shipping, there probably needs to be some interim set of measures to make that politically easier or more realistic,'' he said.

Referring to Turkey's FM Abdullah Gul's proposal on Cyprus, Bryza said ''that proposal is highly ambitious but hasn't been accepted by the other side yet.''

''So it seems to get from where we are today to fulfilment of Foreign Minister's Gul vision, there could be or maybe should be some interim measures that are taken. And I hope the secretary will have a chance to explore some of those, just as we explore them at my level when I'm in Ankara, when I'm in Athens or Nicosia or in Brussels'', he concluded.

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