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Greek FM and UN envoy hopeful for Cyprus settlement
2002-10-23 09:53:52

By Kostas Iordanides -- Athens, Oct 23 (CNA) -- Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro De Soto have stated there is still a window of opportunity and a possibility for a settlement of the Cyprus problem so that Cyprus will accede to the EU united.

Papandreou, who met De Soto yesterday in Athens for over two hours, noted that "we are now at a pivotal phase of developments in the Cyprus problem and at the end of Cyprus' EU accession course," expressing hope that "the small window which is open until the EU Copenhagen Summit (in December) will allow cooperation for a solution."

He recalled the EU Helsinki conclusions for Cyprus which said that a solution to the Cyprus problem is not a precondition for the island's accession to the EU and noted that he told De Soto that a solution must respect UN principles, must be viable and in conformity with the acquis communautaire.

The UN envoy agreed with Papandreou ''that there is an important opportunity that exists now'', stressing that ''it is our hope that it will be possible to bring about a settlement that allows Cyprus to enter the EU reunited.''|

He underlined that the Secretary General is conducting the efforts ''in conformity with the mandate he received from the Security Council for a comprehensive settlement that takes into consideration all the relevant EU resolutions,'' adding that ''this is an important role to be achieved.''

De Soto said ''the weeks to come are critical. There is little time left. But it is still possible to reach a settlement if the opportunity is seized with courage and willingness to compromise in a serious give and take,'' he added.

Answering a question De Soto said that it is very difficult to measure progress because on the ground, rules is that the two leaders agreed that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

Invited to say whether negotiations will go on after the Copenhagen EU Summit if a settlement is not reached by then, the UN diplomat said: ''Let's concentrate on the goal we have. There is a possibility of obtaining a settlement that should satisfy the interests of all sides in this old dispute. Let us work towards that goal. Let us not think about resorting to a plan b and what will happen next year. The goal at hand is to get a settlement.''

Referring to the fact that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is still hospitalised after the two surgeries he recently underwent in New York, De Soto expressed hope for Denktash's early recovery ''because leadership is needed at this stage.''

''It is needed by all participants in this effort whether they are direct negotiators or whether they have an important role to play such as Greece and Turkey,'' he added. Papandreou also wished for Denktash's recovery.

Asked about the possibility of Denktash being replaced at the talks, De Soto said this was entirely up to the Turkish Cypriot side to decide.

De Soto has been conducting direct talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktash since mid January this year.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.

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