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Annan arrives in Greece continuing efforts to finalize Cyprus deal

Annan arrives in Greece continuing efforts to finalize Cyprus deal

Kofi Annan and Greek FM George Papandreou
Continuing efforts to finalize a deal to enable a united Cyprus to join the European Union (EU) later this year, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived today in Greece, where he stressed adherence to the goal of reaching agreement by end of this month.

"Perhaps that goal can slip a few days, but to go much beyond 28 February would doom the prospect of a re-united Cyprus signing the [EU] Treaty of Accession," Mr. Annan told the press upon his arrival in Athens. "Postponing agreement beyond early March would amount to saying no to EU accession by a united Cyprus."

Stressing that this was the "decisive phase of the process," the Secretary-General said he would shortly hand over what he hoped would be the final changes to a comprehensive settlement that he first proposed last November and revised in December. The revisions, he added, are the culmination of the most intensive process of negotiations on the Cyprus problem, and a representation of the best of what the UN can do to help parties reach an agreement.

"I was encouraged and heartened by my talks in Turkey," Mr. Annan said, referring to meetings he had with leaders in that country the previous day. "My purpose here, as in Turkey, is to discuss with the Greek Government how they can assist me in this final effort so that the parties in Cyprus can come to terms."

In the afternoon, Mr. Annan attended a signing ceremony of the Olympic Truce in the presence of Foreign Minister George Papandreou, with whom he also held a one-on-one meeting. The Truce, endorsed in the UN Millennium Declaration, calls on Member States to stop all wars and conflicts while the Olympic Games are in progress.

This evening, the Secretary-General is expected to meet with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and with Mr. Papandreou, before he attends a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister in his honour.