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Greek government says plan is starting point for negotiations
2002-11-12 14:47:22

Nicosia, Nov 12 (CNA) -- The Greek leadership said the UN plan submitted Monday by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Cyprus is the starting point for negotiations. The Greek government stressed negotiations will be conducted by the Greek Cypriot leadership and Greece will offer its support.

At the same time, it underlined that the island's accession to the European Union is a separate issue and should not be associated with the recent peace efforts.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the UN Secretary-General's proposal for a Cyprus settlement constitutes the starting point of negotiations, the Athens News Agency (ANA) quoted him as saying.

He was speaking after meeting Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos whom he briefed on the latest developments in Cyprus. Simitis delivered a copy of the Annan peace plan to the president.|

Simitis said the contents of the plan is being studied by the Greek and Greek Cypriot side and there are many points which will need to be examined with the other side and the UN. He specified that the Cyprus leadership would carry out the negotiations.

The Greek Premier said his government and the Greek people are standing by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and will help in the negotiations, which will be conducted.

The Greek government was expected to deliver the UN blueprint to the Greek political parties. Simitis will also meet party leaders next week to take note of their views.

Earlier Tuesday, Simitis chaired a meeting attended by Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Press Minister Christos Protopapas and officials from the Greek Foreign Ministry, ANA reported.

The aim of the meeting, said Papandreou, was to determine the next steps after the submission of the UN plan, the agency added.

Papandreou said together with the Prime Minister, they intend to inform the public opinion to have a "complete knowledge of all the aspects of the issue, and proceed with a formulation of our position with Mr. Clerides".

He also conveyed his intention to inform former foreign ministers and the Greek Parliament.

The Greek Foreign Minister expressed hope there will be a complete agreement of the interested parties by December. "We want a solution to the Cyprus problem, for years we have been seeking the intervention of the international community, therefore let's use it", he concluded.

On his part, Greek Government Spokesman Protopapas said that when President Clerides visits Athens over the weekend, apart from his meeting with Simitis, he will also have separate meetings with Greek political personalities, ANA said.

"First, we are interested in the Cypriot side to have the first saying, bearing in mind that it will have the responsibility of the agreement. We are merely cooperating and supporting President Clerides", he was quoted as saying.

Protopapas conveyed the position of Athens that it is "to our interest to find a settlement after 28 years", adding that "?every perception which tells us not to enter negotiations, leads us to a de facto division". He criticised Turkey for not giving its position so far.

According to the Athens News Agency dispatch, Protopapas said although it would be desirable for both sides to reach a framework agreement before thw EU sumit in Copenhagen, "this does not constitute a precondition for Cyprus' accession to the European Union".

"We should not relate the Cyprus accession to the EU and a solution to the Cyprus problem", Protopapas said and pointed out that the reference to Cyprus in the Helsinki European Council conclusions is covered by the firm contribution of Cyprus and Greece in efforts for a settlement to the political problem. The Annan plan is a starting point. Therefore we are entering negotiations", he said.

According to the Helsinki summit conclusions in 1999, the European Council underlines that a political settlement will facilitate the accession of Cyprus to the EU but is not a precondition.

Meanwhile, Greek Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Panagiotis Beglitis, echoed Protopapas' statements, explaining that there is no dilemma before the two sides and the only date that is being set is 30 March 2003 because if there is a solution to the problem, the people of both communities will be asked to give their verdict with referendum.

It is expected, he added, that there will be intense negotiations but Nicosia possesses the necessary calm and realism, ANA quoted him as saying.

He announced that Foreign Minister Papandreou will commence a series of meetings with European officials, starting with his German counterpart, Joschka Fischer, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, European Commissioner, responsible for Enlargement, Gunter Verheugen and others to analyse how functional and compatible the solution plan is with the acquis communautaire.

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