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Clerides: Athens talks will decide strategy on Annan's plan
2002-11-16 23:35:07

Larnaca, Nov 15 (CNA) ? Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides went to the Greek capital on Friday to discuss with the Greek leadership the strategy, which the Greek Cypriot side will follow regarding the UN Secretary General's plan for a Cyprus settlement.

Speaking before his departure to Athens where on Saturday he will hold talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Clerides said Monday's deadline to reply to the Annan plan was still on and the National Council, which will discuss the results of the Athens talks on Monday, will decide what the reply of Greek Cypriot will be.

Asked what the purpose of his visit to Athens is, President Clerides replied "to exchange views with the Greek government on the strategy which we will have to follow, regarding the UN plan submitted by the UN Secretaryn General".|

He also said he will convey the results of the Athens talks to the National Council, the top advisory body to the President on the handling of the Cyprus problem, when the council meets on Monday to discuss the issue.

Clerides said his talks with Simitis on the plan will continue during lunch on Saturday and that "they have prepared an agenda on the fundamental issues which we must discuss".

The President replied positively to a question whether the Greek Cypriot side and the Greek government have prepared the points on which they want to negotiate and they will compare notes during their Athens talks.

To a question that there are many who are voicing their opposition to the Annan plan, like the people of the Turkish occupied town of Kyrenia, Clerides said he would not want to comment on that. "We have a democracy here, people can freely express their views and can freely try to get their views accepted," he added.

Asked if he expects to receive the go-ahead from the National Council to negotiate the Annan plan, Clerides replied he did not want to preempt the National Council decision because that would not be right.

He explained that the National Council has the following rules: "Unanimous decisions of the National Council bind the President. If there are disagreements, the President must give special attention to the majority which is determined not by the number of those attending the body, but by what they represent."

The president clarified that Monday's meeting "will be the first of many, and one of the first issues which it will deal with is our reply (to Annan) if we will negotiate the plan".

"We must be ready on Monday", he said, to give the Secretary-General a reply to the seven-day deadline he has given. Referring to a meeting he had today with the UN Secretary General's advisor on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, Clerides said the UN diplomat told him the Turkish Cypriot side "had asked for an extension but he did not tell me that they gave an extension".

The President told reporters that the Greek Cypriot side had asked for clarifications on the Annan plan from the UN "and already they are coming back to us with clarifications on some issues but we have not yet finished".

To a question whether the Greek Cypriot side is being pressured by the Greek government to sign an agreement by December 12 when the European Council will convene in Copenhagen and decide about the enlargement, expected to include Cyprus, President Clerides replied "so far, the Greek government has not exerted, neither I believe it will exert any pressure".

"The suggestion to meet in Athens and discuss the plan and the strategy which we will follow, came from the Greek government and I gratefully responded", Clerides said.

Asked if the procedure for a settlement would continue after December 12, if, for any reason, either side is not ready to sign an agreement, President Clerides said "I do not think there is an issue that if any side does not wish to go ahead and sign, the procedure will come to an end".

Invited to say if he believes the island is heading for peace, the President said, "we were always heading for peace, our effort, not only of my government but the governments in the past, were to find a peaceful solution of the Cyprus problem. Whether we will succeed or not, this does not depend only on one side".

Clerides begins his contacts on Saturday with a meeting with opposition leader, New Democracy chairman, Costas Karamanlis. He will later meet his counterpart, Costis Stephanopoulos and after that will confer with Prime Minister Costas Simitis. The two will give a press conference and then the prime minister will host a working luncheon for the President.

Later Saturday he will meet General Secretary of the Communist Party, Aleca Papariga, the leader of the Coalition of the Left and Progress, Nicos Constantopoulos and later US Special Coordinator on Cyprus, Thomas Weston.

On Sunday, he will meet the president of the Federation of Cyprus Organisations in Greece, Costas Syllouris and the federation's central council.

He returns to Cyprus on Sunday afternoon.

He is accompanied by Attorney-General Alecos Markides, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou.

Greece's ambassador to Cyprus Christos Panagopoulos is already in the Greek capital.

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