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2002-12-04 16:43:15

Scrambling for a Solution on Cyprus
By Nora Boustany
As pressure mounts with the approaching European Union summit in Copenhagen on Dec. 12, diplomats have fanned out for a last-ditch effort to achieve agreement on a U.N. reunification plan for the divided island of Cyprus before the conclave, at which Nicosia is likely to receive an invitation to join the EU in 2004.

U.S., U.N. and Danish envoys are urging Turkey and Greece to resolve their long-standing issues -- and thus help clear the way toward Turkey's entry into the EU -- by agreeing to a framework for broad power-sharing between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

The two communities have lived apart since 1974, when Turkey seized the northern segment of the island following a short-lived coup by Greek Cypriots who had backing from Greece.

Marc Grossman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, is expected to visit Ankara, Athens and Nicosia this week, and U.N. envoy Alvaro de Soto will shuttle among the three capitals. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was due in Ankara yesterday, following a visit there and a plea by Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller for "political will" and "courage." Yesterday, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan argued that there was still "plenty of time" to reach an agreement.

Last week Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou conferred with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and told reporters he had discussed the plan for a loose power-sharing arrangement put forward by Annan.

Under this proposal, each community would administer its own affairs, with two component states under a common structure.

The U.N. plan will face objections from the Turks over handing back territory and discomfort among the Greeks over keeping Turkish settlers on the island.

Papandreou, whose country will take over the EU presidency after Denmark, said he asked the United States to help Turkey make the necessary reforms to move things along with the EU. He said he discussed with Rice "the importance of Turkey getting a date from the EU to begin accession talks."

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