Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders agree to meet Annan again for final talks

Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders agree to meet Annan again for final talks

Annan with Greek & Turkish Cypriot leaders
The Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders today agreed to an invitation by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to meet on 10 March in The Hague to give him a definitive response to a plan that would enable a reunited Cyprus to join the European Union (EU) later this year.

"I have asked the two leaders to arrive at The Hague prepared to tell me, there and then, whether or not they would sign a commitment to submit the Foundation Agreement to approval at separate, simultaneous referenda on 30 March in order to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem," Mr. Annan told the press before leaving Cyprus today.

"I have also asked the two leaders to arrive in The Hague having completed all necessary internal consultations and processes so that the response on 10 March is definitive," he added.

Mr. Annan, who met for more than an hour earlier Friday with newly inaugurated Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos, outgoing Greek Cypriot leader Glafcos Clerides, and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, said he was satisfied with the outcome of his weeklong mission to Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. He added that he was glad Mr. Papadopoulos and Mr. Denktash agreed to meet him again in The Hague.

"I am convinced that all concerned - Greece, Turkey and the two parties in the island - understand that the holding of referenda on 30 March is the key to a reunited Cyprus signing the Treaty of Accession on 16 April," he said, referring to the EU agreement. "There is a unique opportunity that must not be missed."

The Secretary-General called the settlement plan "fair and balanced," adding, "Of course it is a compromise. But all negotiated settlements require compromise. I urge all concerned to catch the tide before it turns, perhaps irreversibly."

Asked if the answer from one party or the other is "no," the Secretary-General stressed, "There should be no doubt that we are at the end of the road." He said a lot of effort was put into the process and he was not sure whether the opportunity would come again soon - if ever. "I think it will be a sad day for the people of this island, for both communities and for the region," he added.