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UN: Tragedy if opportunity for Cyprus settlement slips by
2003-01-16 15:51:25

By Apostolis Zoupaniotis -- United Nations, Jan 16 (CNA) ? The UN said here Thursday the current effort to solve the Cyprus problem was the last good chance for a very long time and if that opportunity slips by it would be a tragedy.

UN Spokesman, Fred Eckhard told reporters during the daily briefing the talks now taking place must conclude by the end of February.

Regarding the contacts of UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, Eckhard said he had met George Papandreou, Greece's Foreign Minister and other foreign ministry officials.

Papandreou, said Eckhard, "confirmed Greece's support for achieving a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem by the 28th of February, using the Secretary General's revised proposal of the 10th of December as a basis for negotiations".

Later Thursday, de Soto was due to meet Xavier Solana, the EU High Representative for EU Common, Foreign and Security Policy. "De Soto returns to Cyprus tomorrow, where he will attend a meeting at 4pm in the UN protected area in Nicosia between H.E. Glafcos Clerides, the Greek Cypriot leader, and H.E. Rauf Denktash, the Turkish-Cypriot leader", Eckhard added.|

Asked whether the UN considers the time until the 28th February too short and whether it was the last chance for a settlement, Eckhard said it "It's the last good chance for a very long time and so our operating assumption is that the talks now taking place must conclude by the end of February in order for there to be time to have the referenda that we discussed on both sides by the end of March".

"If that opportunity slips by I think it would be a tragedy", Eckhard warned.

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


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