UN Presents New Cyprus Peace Plan Before EU Summit
November 11, 2002
NICOSIA, Cyprus (Reuters) - The United Nations presented a long-awaited peace plan for Cyprus Monday, just one month before a key European Union summit affecting the divided Mediterranean island's admission to the bloc. U.N. Under Secretary-General Alvaro de Soto said the blueprint to resolve Cyprus's nearly 30-year-old conflict, which could influence the eastward expansion of the EU as well as Turkey's hopes of joining it, was submitted simultaneously to Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders.
It was also being sent to their backers Greece and Turkey, as well as former colonial power Britain. "I delivered the conclusions of the secretary general's deliberations (on Cyprus)," said de Soto, who was the main author of the plan.
Asked when he expected a reply from the parties involved, de Soto told reporters in Nicosia, "I don't want to put any more pressure on them than there is."
Greek Cypriot leader Glafcos Clerides received the plan in Nicosia from de Soto while his Turkish counterpart Rauf Denktash was delivered the document in New York where he is recovering from heart surgery.
"We've been told the plan is a negotiating starting point to restart the stalled peace talks," Denktash told Turkish television channel NTV in a live interview.
"There is nothing like, 'You will take it or leave it.' There is a deadline of 30 days, but this is for negotiations to begin. Therefore there is no sense in taking a position like the world is coming to an end."
Diplomatic sources believe U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's plan to solve the complex diplomatic puzzle urges the rival parties to make peace before the EU summit in Copenhagen in mid-December that will decide on EU expansion and Turkish membership. EU EXPANSION
Cyprus, with a population of about 750,000 and a land area smaller than Connecticut, has been divided since a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the military then ruling Greece.
Turkish Cypriots, who make up about 20 percent of the population, control about one-third of the east Mediterranean island. Cyprus is among 10 countries hoping to join the EU in the next expansion. Turkey has threatened to annex its part of the island if the EU admits a divided Cyprus while Greece has threatened to veto EU expansion if Cyprus is not included because of fears of Turkey's reaction.
Diplomatic sources said the 150-page document offers several proposals on territorial trade-offs, with Turkish Cypriots yielding some territory they presently control in the northern third of the island.
The trade-offs would focus on the eastern coastal city of Varosha, virtually a ghost town since 1974, the north western region of Morphou and some villages in the Mesaoria plain east of Nicosia. Denktash signaled there would probably be tough negotiations on territory trade-offs because of population moves it could involve.
"The most important (issue) is Turkish Cypriots' status on the island," Denktash said in the television interview. "On the issue of adjusting territory, it is unacceptable to make tens of thousands of our people migrants." Cyprus, just 60 miles from the Syrian coast, has long been a key Middle East listening post and neutral venue for parties involved in conflicts there. Later this week, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix arrives in Nicosia to oversee plans for his monitors to use the island as a forward post for inspections of Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction.