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UN Advisers Meet Greek And Turkish Cypriot Leaders

Annan's Adviser Meets With Greek And Turkish Cypriot Leaders

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s top adviser for Cyprus met separately with the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders today on the eve of the resumption of direct talks aimed at securing agreement on a plan that would reunify the island nation ahead of its entry into the European Union in May.

The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, met this morning with the Greek Cypriot leader, Tassos Papadopoulos, before holding talks in the afternoon with the Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash.

Direct talks between the two leaders, in the presence of Mr. de Soto, are scheduled to start tomorrow morning at the Nicosia Conference centre in the UN-protected area.

In New York Mr. Annan said he thought it was “a great chance” for both peoples of Cyprus to work hard to come together. “I also appeal to the leaders to really seize the moment and really work in good faith, in a give-and-take spirit, to make it a win-win situation for everybody,” he told reporters upon arrival at UN Headquarters.

“I hope the leaders will work with us to produce a plan and a document that is fair and balanced that the people can vote on and enter a united Europe together” on 1 May, he added.

Last week the two leaders agreed to continue negotiations until 22 March on the basis of Mr. Annan’s plan. If an agreement on modifications to the plan can be reached, then the entire proposal will be submitted to separate referenda in April for approval by the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots.

Yesterday, Mr. de Soto was asked in Cyprus what would happen if the Turkish Cypriots or the Greek Cypriots reject the agreement in the referendum. “What we are hoping for is that since it is going to be necessarily a compromise…that the leaders who will continue to participate in this exercise will rise up to their responsibility of helping to explain how a compromise is necessary and indeed unavoidable in order to reach a settlement on Cyprus,” he replied.

Asked about the possibility of Mr. Annan intervening should the two parties fail to reach agreement, Mr. de Soto said he still held hope that it will be possible for them to agree to whatever changes they want to make and also to complete the text.

“And that failing that, the meeting that the Secretary-General would convene sometime in late March, would be able to resolve anything that remained. We would strongly prefer that it not come to that and I prefer not to get in to what exactly our role would be until then,” he said.

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