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De Soto: Reasonably good chance to solve Cyprus problem
2003-01-16 14:21:54

By Costas Iordanides-- Athens, Jan 16 (CNA) ? UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto said there was a reasonably good chance to solve the Cyprus problem.

He was speaking after meeting Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou who, in his capacity as President of the EU Ministers Council, pledged the EU would offer unlimited support to the UN efforts.

In his statements, de Soto said he would be returning to the island tomorrow morning for the continuation of the face-to-face talks in the afternoon with President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, "and after that they have agreed that they will set up an intensive programme of meetings".|

The two leaders, de Soto said, have "reiterated their commitment to pursue negotiations on the basis of the Secretary-General's plan and that they will also devote their efforts to completing the settlement by the end of February".

This he further said, is necessary in order to allow referenda in which "Cypriots will be able to take an educated decision on the basis of the completed draft of the settlement, so that a new state of affairs can come about in Cyprus in light of the decision taken on 30 March, this new state of affairs can come about on the 31 March which would allow, therefore, a reunited Cyprus to accede to the EU, to sign the Accession Treaty on the 16 April".

De Soto said it was a disappointment "that the opportunity to come to an agreement was missed before the Copenhagen European Council", only to add that it is not over. "It is still within reach to have a settlement at last and let us hope that with the support of Turkey and the reiterated support of Greece, as now expressed by the Foreign Minister, it will be possible to bring this about".

Asked about the legitimacy of negotiating with Denktash, de Soto said "Mr. Denktash is the T/C leader and he negotiates on behalf of T/C and Mr. Clerides accepts him as his interlocutor and I don't think I should go beyond that".

De Soto further said he did not see "any possibility of negotiations going beyond" 28 February, the timeframe set in Annan's revised plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, adding that "we have a reasonably good chance to solve the Cyprus problem".

Papandreou, said during the Copenhagen Council, the EU had asked all interested parties to contribute in the UN effort to find a solution by the end of February. He repeated the EU appeal, noting, "he has the infinite support of the EU".

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of the island's territory.


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