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Breakthrough In Cyprus Talks

Cyprus Political Settlement ‘In Reach,’ Annan Says Following Breakthrough In Talks

More than 40 years after the United Nations first became involved in the Cyprus problem, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said a settlement is “in reach” after the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders committed to his plan to reunify the island nation ahead of its entry into the European Union (EU).

Talks on the basis of Mr. Annan’s settlement plan will reconvene on 19 February in Cyprus, according to a statement agreed to by the two parties and Greece and Turkey after marathon talks at UN Headquarters in New York. The results of the negotiations will then be submitted to separate and simultaneous referenda in April before Cyprus is slated to formally join the EU on 1 May.

“I commend the constructive spirit and political will displayed by both parties, as well as by Greece and Turkey, to reach this agreement,” the Secretary-General said at a press conference announcing the breakthrough, which came after a negotiating session that lasted until 3 a.m. Friday. “All concerned now face historic responsibilities to bring about a just and lasting peace in Cyprus.”

Since Tuesday, the Greek Cypriot leader, Tassos Papadopoulos, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, have been meeting with Mr. Annan at UN Headquarters in New York. Also present for the talks were the guarantor nations – Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

In Cyprus, the parties will seek to finalize negotiations under the Secretary-General’s mission of good offices – headed by his Special Adviser, Alvaro de Soto – by 22 March. If they fail to agree, Mr. Annan will then convene a meeting of the two sides along with Greece and Turkey in an effort to agree on a final text by 29 March.

As a last resort, the Secretary-General has been invited by the parties to use his discretion to finalize the text to be submitted to referenda on the basis of his plan.

The parties also agreed today to form a technical committee on the economic and financial aspects of implementation, to be chaired by the UN.

“A lot of hard work is still needed, and there are still tough questions ahead. But if all concerned show the same courage and goodwill during the next three months that they have shown in the last three days, I believe there is now a real chance that, before the first of May, Cyprus will be reunited,” Mr. Annan said.

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