In Turkey, Annan says time is short but Cyprus deal still possible

In Turkey, Annan says time is short but Cyprus deal still possible

Kofi Annan speaks to the press in Ankara
Despite the short time left, a deal still could be reached to enable a united Cyprus to join the European Union later this year, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in Turkey, where he is kicking off a tour of the region in a late push to finalize such an accord before a Friday deadline.

"We have a unique window of opportunity to try and get united Cyprus into the European Union. That is why I am here despite the urgent crisis of Iraq that the United Nations is dealing with right now," the Secretary-General told reporters this afternoon after a meeting with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Turkish ruling party.

"We have been discussing and searching for a settlement for a long time," he added. "The issues are well known; we have had intensive consultations with the parties. We've been discussing the plans with them, we know their concerns and their worries and they also have the sense of what to expect from me and what we have in mind. I will be giving them a fresh document in the next day or so."

In a statement to the press upon his arrival yesterday in Ankara, the Secretary-General referred to the timeframe under which the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots need to seal an agreement before Cyprus is to accede to the Europe Union on 16 April, noting that both sides have to decide in separate, simultaneous referendums on 30 March to approve a comprehensive settlement.

"For this to happen, the leaders must come to terms in time for those referendums to go forward," Mr. Annan stressed, noting that he will also be travelling to Greece and Cyprus. "That time is now. That is why I am here. I wish to do all I can to encourage the leaders to muster the spirit of compromise, courage and leadership of which they are capable."

In his meetings today, the Secretary-General conferred with his senior advisers on Cyprus before meeting first with President Ahmed Nejdet Sezer, with whom he discussed Cyprus and Iraq.

After that encounter, Mr. Annan held talks with Mr. Erdogan. The Secretary-General is expected to meet with Prime Minister Abdullah Gul this evening before attending a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister in his honour.