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2 Cypriot leaders to create joint panels
2002-10-07 06:40:58

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders have agreed to create bilateral committees to begin immediately to reconcile separate treaties and laws for a "common state," but a footnote explained "common state" was only a "provisional designation" for the long-divided Mediterranean isle.

The statement, read aloud by Annan's special adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, was issued just after the secretary-general's second day of meetings at U.N. headquarters in New York with Glafcos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot leader, and Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader. The Thursday and Friday round was the latest in a series held between the two with Annan this year.

The statement said, "There has been an encouraging effort to explore ways of bridging differences pragmatically" and the secretary-general "tried to crystallize for the two leaders a way they could push their discussions forward to further narrow their differences."

As part of that effort, he said "the two leaders have decided to create two ad hoc bilateral technical committees to begin work immediately on important technical issues.

"The purpose of these committees is to make recommendations on technical matters, without prejudice to the positions of the two leaders on the core issues concerned," the Annan statement said. "Their work shall be ad referendum, and shall focus on treaties and future 'common state'* laws. The United Nations will assist the parties in this work."

The written statement carried the footnote, "* 'common state' is a provisional term" and de Soto explained it as he read the announcement to reporters.

"There is no simple solution to the Cyprus problem," the statement said. "For this reason a comprehensive settlement has to be a complex, integrated, legally binding and self-executing agreement, where the rights and obligations of all concerned are clear, unambiguous, and not subject to further negotiation. I hope the work of the committees will help the leaders towards this end.

"The opportunity that is at hand must be seized," it continued. "In this regard, Greece and Turkey have an important role to play, and I look forward to their continued support."

The Annan statement also explained that since Denktash was expected to undergo surgery soon it was likely he would be unavailable "for a few weeks."

The secretary-general expected "work will continue in October, and I have asked the leaders to clear their diaries during November, when I am looking forward to seeing them again."

Some diplomats suggested it also was a convenient time to delay U.N.-brokered talks because of the Nov. 3 elections in Turkey. Several observers said it was most unlikely there would be breakthrough before then.

After all these years there is a certain urgency over the Cyprus situation because the Greek Cypriot side, recognized internationally, aspires to join the European Union, and could do so as early as 2004. Only Turkey recognizes the northern, or Turkish, side of the island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Greece assumes the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union in January and says it wants Cypriot accession to the European Union to be a priority.

Turkey, which has warned it could annex the Turkish part, is among a list of 13 countries that have applied for EU membership, but still needs to meet various demands, such as on human rights, before it can enter into negotiations for accession into the European Union.

There has been strong international pressure for the two sides to reconcile their differences because of the European Union aspirationS.

The Greek Cypriots want a united Cypriot state, with separate Greek and Turkish regions, while the Turkish Cypriots seek two separate entities, joined in a confederation, replacing the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus.

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