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De Soto receives Clerides' timely reply, Spokesman says deadlines have
2002-11-18 16:58:36

Nicosia, Nov 18 (CNA) ? UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto said the timeframe in Kofi Annan's plan for a settlement is an integral part of the Secretary General's proposal and pointed out that there needs to be a firm commitment by the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides to try to reach a settlement before December 12, when the European Union summit takes place. <

Speaking after receiving a letter from President Glafcos Clerides addressed to Kofi Annan in which the President expresses his readiness to begin negotiations without delay, de Soto said he hoped the UN will soon receive from the Turkish Cypriot side an expression of their willingness to start negotiations.

The Greek Cypriot reply was given to the UN within the requested time framework of seven days from the day the UN proposal was presented.

De Soto hoped there would be a firm commitment by the Turkish Cypriot side to negotiate in good faith and reach a settlement in advance of the Copenhagen European Council of December 12.

Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said the Greek Cypriot side "gave its reply expressing readiness to begin negotiations on the basis of the Secretary-General's proposal to find a solution to the Cyprus problem".|

Surrounded by reporters as he exited the Presidential Palace, de Soto said "we are well aware that time is pressing and the clock is ticking and the SG knew this very well when he submitted these proposals to the two sides".

He said he hoped "we will soon receive from the Turkish Cypriot side an expression of their willingness to start negotiations and we very much hope that they will come to such negotiations with a firm commitment to negotiate in good faith and reach a settlement on the questions that need to be settled in advance of Copenhagen".

Asked how realistic this was, De Soto said the UN believe it can be done. "We think it can be done. The SG would not have proposed it if he was not convinced on this. If there is a sense of urgency, if there is a firm commitment, and political will, they can do it".

''Negotiations are like clapping your hands, it means two. So, what we are hoping for is to receive very soon, an indication of the equal willingness of the Turkish Cypriot side," he said.

De Soto said he had no answer to the problems arising from the ill state of health of the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who is still in hospital recovering from open heart surgery, and from the absence of a government in Turkey.

"Obviously we do not want to put undue or unfair pressure on the two sides", de Soto remarked and repeated that "the clock is ticking and we trust that a solution to that problem will be found".

Asked why the UN is not more flexible on the December deadline, de Soto replied, "if you read the proposal more carefully, you will realize that the calendar is essential, an integral, an inseparable part of the proposal. So if the proposal is accepted as the basis for negotiations, you really have to have a firm commitment on both sides to try to reach a settlement before that date".

He stressed that Kofi Annan "has made a proposal within a certain conjuncture". The UN diplomat said that "there are certain conditions that are prevailing now that are particularly favourable for a settlement. We are not at all sure that those conditions will prevail after Copenhagen".

Therefore, "the whole structure of the programme again is based on the premise that certain things, in fact the key things, will have to be agreed in advance of Copenhagen".

De Soto referred journalists to the plan, which, he stressed, was made public against his advice.

To a remark that the plan was therefore an ultimatum, de Soto said "that is not a judgment for me to make. It is certainly not an ultimatum since it is a proposal for a negotiation".

Asked to say how easy it would be to change the Secretary-General's plan, de Soto said the "SG made this proposal in order to encourage the two sides to engage in negotiations. That means, obviously, every last word is not untouchable. It is they who have to reach an agreement. It is not a take it or leave it proposal, as it was suggested".

In his remarks Government Spokesman Papapetrou said, "we are ready to start negotiations even tomorrow".

He said the Greek Cypriot side gave its reply within the seven-day deadline, set by Annan when he submitted his proposal last Monday.

Commenting on the deadlines, as set out in the UN proposal, the Spokesman said, "the deadline has basically vanished for reasons for which the Greek Cypriot side is not to be held responsible. Therefore the deadline cannot be binding", he said. Papapetrou cited a statement by Turkey's leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) that it is impossible for the Turkish side to reach an agreement by December 12 and that it is impossible to deal with the issue before the new Turkish government receives a vote of confidence on December 4.

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