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Weston sees greater possibilities for agreement
2002-12-23 10:05:22

By Apostolis Zoupaniotis New York, Dec 22 (CNA)? US State Department special coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Weston believes that a political settlement in Cyprus can be achieved by the end of February, a target date set by the UN.

He also sees that the situation at present has a "different dynamic" related to the European Union and he considers that the gap in the positions of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides is significant but smaller than in the past.

Weston told C?? in an interview that several "very positive things" have emerged from the recent EU summit in Copenhagen, namely the decision on Cyprus' accession with no strings attached, a date with regard to Turkey's membership talks and the repetition by the EU of its strong desire to see the Cyprus question settled.

The US official said that "everything possible" needs to be done between now and the end of February to clinch a deal, which can be incorporated in the accession treaty.|

"This means an agreement would have to be achieved on something like the timetable, which the SG has outlined which is in essence the end of February in order to commit a referendum in a timely fashion before the accession of Cyprus," he said.

Noting that there has been progress towards a settlement, Weston said "we are going to work to get a settlement now" and stressed that "we are dealing in a current different dynamic situation once again related to the EU."

"We are in a very different period in terms of the external dynamics effecting the possibilities" of a solution, he said, replying to questions.

In the interview Weston noted that there was a lot of activity in Copenhagen ''which made clear to the new Turkish government about Europe's feeling on the necessity of solving the Cyprus problem.''

''I think it is really reinforced how important is for the EU to see the Cyprus question solved and I think that was beneficial,'' he added.

Referring to the Copenhagen European Summit, Weston noted that Cyprus got its invitation to become an EU member "without conditions in a straight forward fashion."

''And that is a positive outcome'', Weston added noting that the US would prefer a solution on the Cyprus problem before Cyprus' accession to the EU.

Replying to questions, Weston said that there were ''a whole series of reasons'' why a solution was not achieved in Copenhagen, ''ranging from a new government in Turkey dealing, to the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's health issues and his absence from Copenhagen''.

''I think the timer factor became too much to deal with, the time became too short to deal with'', Weston noted.

Asked whether a solution is possible taking to account the core positions of the two sides, which remain unchanged, Weston said that those views were taken into account in the revised plan submitted by the UN Secretary General on December 10, adding that ''those revisions were designed to accommodate the views of the respective parties involved''.

Weston noted that ''very significant differences between the parties remain'', pointing out however that those differences are smaller than two weeks ago.

Replying to question whether the two sides' objections are less after the submission of the Annan revised plan, Weston said ''the areas which are focused on are fairly clear-cut''.

Asked whether Annan's Special Advisor on Cyprus question Alvaro de Soto will proceed with a new process, Weston said that it is not a new process, adding that ''it is going to be different things in different areas''.

''It is certainly an activity which is going to make more likely that we get to a settlement'', he noted.

Commenting on the fact that Annan did not travel to Copenhagen Weston said that ''the Secretary General decided when he had to decide, whether or not it would be useful for him to go and he took that decision.''

Weston also praised both Annan's and Alvaro de Soto's work on the Cyprus peace effort.

'' I am repeatedly and continue to be very impressed by the time and attention that he has devoted to this issue to get a solution. So you are not hearing anything but praise about his work and that of his special advisor to get a solution'', he said.

Responding to questions regarding the presidential elections, Weston said that ''elections year is going on for a while and somehow this process keeps going''.

Asked whether he thought the Annan plan would end up like the set of ideas the UN put forward in 1992 by the then Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali, Weston said that ''a lot of the good material in the set of ideas is part of the current plan''.

''I think there has been progress, great progress far beyond the set of ideas'', US envoy said.

Asked whether one could impose the solution, Weston said that everybody wants the solution to work.

''Imposed solutions are not the way to get solutions that will work'', he added. CNA/AZ/GS/??/2002

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