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Kasoulides welcomes Annan's and Boucher's statements
2003-01-15 10:26:46

Nicosia, Jan 15 (CNA) -- Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has welcomed statements by the UN and the US that hail the mass protest rallies by Turkish Cypriots in occupied Cyprus demanding peace and a political settlement.

The minister noted that this the first time there were indirect, albeit clear, suggestions that Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash should step down.

Kasoulides said that the mass protest rallies against Denktash are a clear signal that this is a period of intensive negotiations for a settlement of the Cyprus problem.|

Invited to say whether negotiations will lead to a settlement by February 28, a target date set by the UN, the Foreign Minister said that the determination of the international community to meet this deadline is there and a great international effort will be made towards this direction.

Asked if there is any chance that Denktash might change his intransigent positions, Kasoulides said that ''if he does not change his intransigent positions, then he will be removed.''

The minister said Denktash's removal from his post as the representative of the Turkish Cypriot community will happen at some stage, but one does not know when.

''If Denktash is not removed by the end of February, then it may be March or April. The Turkish side has to do its homework and take its decisions. Either Denktash's intransigence is lifted or he steps down,'' Kasoulides said.

UN-led Cyprus peace talks between President Glafcos Clerides and Denktash resumed here today, in the presence of UN Secretary General's special adviser Alvaro de Soto.

Secretary General Kofi Annan said yesterday that the UN "are going to press ahead with the negotiations, the deadline of the 28th of February is a firm one" and noted that the UN is in striking distance of reuniting Cyprus.

Commenting on a mass rally held in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus yesterday, the UN chief said he was pleased to see that people were out in the streets demanding peace and unification and stressed it is very difficult for a leader not to listen to the people when they speak and come out in those numbers.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told his daily briefing yesterday that demonstrations in Cyprus by Turkish Cypriots show that they understand the significant benefits of achieving a comprehensive settlement and ''we couldn't agree more with that''.

Boucher also noted that ''the UN revised settlement plan currently on the table provides a basis for such a settlement, and we believe a settlement in Cyprus can and should be achieved by February 28th.''

CNA/AAG/MK/MM/2003
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY

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