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26 February, 2003
Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Tuesday that a solution to the Cyprus issue is possible in timetables set by the UN, if the political will exists on the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot sides. He was speaking after holding talks with visiting UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The UN chief reiterated that a unique opportunity currently exists ''for a reunited Cyprus to accede to the EU'' and expressed satisfaction over the outcome of his talks in Ankara on Monday, saying the Turkish leadership also strongly supports a solution to the Cyprus issue in existing timetables.
Talks between Simitis and Annan continued during a dinner the prime minister hosted for his guest. The talks were attended by Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Deputy Press Minister Telemahos Hytiris and Annan's special representative Alvaro de Soto.
Simitis said in a statement that Greece and Cyprus have every reason to appreciate Annan's contribution to the issue of Cyprus which has come to the forefront of events after many vicissitudes, as he said.
''The possibility of a solution arose after many initiatives by the UN and much work for difficult problems which had been accumulated, following three decades of occupation of a third of Cyprus, to be handled in detail,'' Simitis said.
Referring to Annan's plan, he said it handles the claims of both sides, while in many points it is not absolutely satisfactory for either of them.
''It shows the way for dividing lines to be overcome and for new relations to be shaped. I have said that what is necessary is political will,'' he said.
Simitis pointed out that the Greek Cypriot and Greek sides have shown that they possess such will, but they cannot take the step alone since the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot sides should move in the same direction.
''If this will exist we can reach a solution in the timeframe set,'' Simitis said, adding that he stressed the need to Annan for a constructive attitude on behalf of Turkey as well.
On the question of Annan's visit to Ankara, Simitis said ''he himself is in a position, better than all, to judge if preconditions of success exist for such an undertaking.''
Simitis referred at length to the decisive importance of the accession process and the participation of Cyprus in all EU deliberations.
''It creates other preconditions for problems to be overcome, consolidating procedures which will gradually push aside differences, conflicts and enmities created as a result of many decades of military intervention, arbitrary acts and the infringement of rights which led to the overturning of international agreements,'' he said.
Simitis further said memory is necessary for one to learn from the past, as well as a will to enable us to create the future, reiterating that this will exists on the Greek and Greek Cypriot sides and appealed for a corresponding will to be exhibited on the part of Turkey as well.
''We expressed our views on acts and points of the solution for us to lead the Cyprus issue to becoming a problem of the past,'' he said, assuring that ''we want this.''
On his part, Annan referred to the very important role played by Greece, particularly now that it is exercising the EU's presidency, and expressed absolute satisfaction over his discussions on the issue of Cyprus, reminding that the present procedure began in 1999 with intensive negotiations between his special envoy and the parties involved.
After reiterating that he sees a ''unique opportunity for a reunited Cyprus to accede to the EU'', he referred to the signing of Cyprus' accession treaty to the EU on April 16, expressing his conviction that an agreement can be reached to enable referendums to take place in both communities by March 30.
Annan further focused on the benefits from the accession of a reunited Cyprus to the EU for the people of Cyprus, the peoples in the region and the EU itself, noting that the present opportunity ''will not exist forever. Courage, vision and determination are necessary.''
He said he will travel to Cyprus on Wednesday to deliver his document which, as he said, will not be a surprise for any side since the views and concerns of both parties have been taken into consideration.
Commenting on whether he is more optimistic for a solution to be found in the time limit set by the UN, after the briefing he had from Annan on results of his visit to Ankara, Simitis said Annan told him that there were encouraging indications and stressed that ''I want to see them in practice.''
Responding to a question on whether he believes his plan will be accepted, Annan expressed the conviction that the new thoughts he will present ''will enable us to move forward, to have differences bridged and to reach an agreement. I came with the hope that we shall conclude so that we can be in a position to say that we have achieved our target'', adding that timetables ''are not technical but real'' and that ''I believe that with the revised plan there will be a satisfactory outcome.''
UN chief Annan arrives in Athens, says opportunity must not be lost for Cyprus: UN secretary general Kofi Annan arrived in Athens at noon on Tuesday for talks with the Greek government on ongoing efforts for a Cyprus settlement, and in an airport statement reiterated that the opportunity for a solution must not be lost.
Annan said there was an important opportunity for resolving the Cyprus issue that must not be lost.
He said the matter was urgent, and that Cyprus should join the European Union reunited, noting that this was desired by the European Union and the UN Security Council alike. But for this to occur, he continued, the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots needed to hold separate referendums by March 30 at the latest.
If this opportunity was lost, he warned, it was unclear whether there would be another opportunity anytime soon.
A reunified Cyprus should sign the accession to the European Union, he reiterated.
Annan further said that the hour of decisions had arrived, and that both sides needed to reach agreement by February 28, noting, however, that a few days extension could be given. But he warned that a delay beyond early March would comprise a 'no' to the accession to the EU by a reunified Cyprus.
The UN chief said he was encouraged by the talks he had in Ankara on Monday, and said the new amendments to his draft solution plan would contain no surprises and would aim at bringing the two sides to agreement.
Replying to questions, Annan said he hoped that EU accession would be made by a reunified Cyprus, adding that he had briefed the Turkish government (on Monday) of the points of the revised plan he would present, and would do the same with the Greek government (on Tuesday) as well as the Cyprus government and the Turkish Cypriot community. Annan is due to arrive in Cyprus on Wednesday.
Asked what would happen if a solution was not reached, Annan said it was in the interests of both sides to reach a solution, adding that Ankara realized how urgent this was and desired a unified Cyprus to accede the EU.
Annan also described Greece as a country with an important role on the international scene, and now, more than ever, as it was holding the EU presidency.
Annan signs Olympic Truce Statement: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan signed the Statement of World Personalities in Support of the Olympic Truce Initiative in Athens on Tuesday evening, in the presence of Foreign Minister and EU Council of Ministers president George Papandreou.
Speaking at a special signing ceremony at the foreign ministry, Papandreou hailed Annan's role in international efforts for peace in many regions of the world, and referring to the Cyprus issue, stressed that ''we are expecting a great deal and have many hopes.''
On his part, the UN chief expressed his particular pleasure as his first visit to Athens coincided with the signing of the Olympic Truce Declaration. He stated that ''we should implement and utilize daily in practice the signing.''
Present at the event were the ambassadors in Athens of the five countries which are permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as Greek parliamentarians.
The brief event came to a close with the screening of a video film on the theme of the Olympic Truce.
Source: Athens News Agency