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UN envoy back in Cyprus to push for agreement before EU membership

UN envoy back in Cyprus to push for agreement before EU membership

Mr. Alvaro de Soto
The Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Cyprus is back in the island nation today for meetings with the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders as part of the UN's efforts to help the parties reach a comprehensive agreement before the country joins the European Union.

Speaking at a press conference in Nicosia upon his return from a stop in Turkey, where he met with government officials as well as the leader of the ruling party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Alvaro de Soto said the timeline was tight for the two sides to settle the Cyprus problem, with only about six weeks left to see negotiations through to a successful conclusion.

"As foreseen in the plan, the agreement of a comprehensive settlement, with all political issues resolved between the two leaders, all security issues between Greece and Turkey resolved, and all technical work completed, by 28 February, would allow just enough time for separate referenda to be prepared and conducted so as to enable the people to take an educated decision on 30 March," he said. "If the results of the referenda were positive, a new state of affairs in Cyprus would come into being on 31 March."

That would allow just two weeks to put in place certain basic parts of the new institutions of the common state, and allow the EU to revise and approve the terms of the accession treaty to accommodate the new state of affairs in the manner foreseen in the plan, so that a reunited Cyprus could sign the Treaty of Accession on 16 April, Mr. de Soto said.

"So by 16 April, the new state of affairs must be in place and up-and-running. If this is to be achieved, as we see it, an agreement is required by 28 February, since there must be time enough for the separate referenda in between," he said.

Mr. de Soto noted that the UN Security Council has "strongly backed" the Secretary-General's decision to push ahead and try to achieve an agreement by 28 February on the basis of his revised proposal of 10 December. "The plan as it stands…reflects nearly a year of intensive consultations and negotiations, and stands on the shoulders of decades of talks before that," he said.

The Special Adviser also noted that the plan has been accepted by both leaders, and by Greece and Turkey, as a basis for negotiation. "The plan establishes an overall balance and provides the parameters which need to be respected if it is to serve as the basis for a negotiated settlement," he said. "This means that the choice before the leaders and the people on each side is not between this plan and a substantially different one; the choice is between this plan, perhaps with balanced refinements here and there as needed, and no agreement at all."

After the press conference, Mr. de Soto went on to meet with the Greek Cypriot leader, Glafcos Clerides. He also set to meet with the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, later today.