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03 April, 2004
Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday told parliament that he intended to ask President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos to call a meeting of political party leaders, under the President's chairmanship, to discuss the Cyprus issue, particularly in view of separate referenda on April 24 to be held later this month in the two Cypriot communities on UN secretary general Kofi Annan's final Cyprus plan.
In an urgent, off-the-agenda discussion called by the premier to brief the 300-member Greek parliament on the outcome of UN-led Cyprus talks in the Swiss town of Buergenstock, that ended Wednesday night without the two sides reaching agreement on the Annan plan, Karamanlis warned that ''in no instance is there room for danger-mongering'' and that ''outbursts and sentimentalities are of no benefit'', adding that ''constant effort, maturity and prudence are demanded by the circumstances''.
He called on all the Greek people and all the political forces for ''national unanimity'' and to ''join forces''.
Karamanlis reiterated that ''the final decision'' on the Annan plan belonged to the people of Cyprus.
''The Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, in separate referenda, will make their choice, with maturity, by weighing all the facts, and with foresightedness for the future,'' the premier said.
As for the Greek government's position on the Annan draft solution for Cyprus, numbering some 10,000 pages, Karamanlis said that the government would assess all the factors involved, and would announce its decisions ''at the appropriate time''.
Karamanlis further tabled, for the parliament minutes, the two texts submitted to the UN chief containing the Greek government's proposals on the security aspect and the compatibility of the Annan plan with the EU's acquis communautaire, as per the UN Secretary General's request to all the sides to submit their comments on his fourth (revised) plan. The premier explained that the Greek comments had been submitted to the UN chief in agreement with the Greek Cypriot side.
As for Annan's ''final text'' (fifth plan) itself, Karamanlis said it was being assessed in detail by the appropriate services. This final text, which would be put to the referenda, was ''basically the initial text, with amendments, and it is obvious that it is a compromise text with positive and difficult points for all the sides,'' the premier explained.
Karamanlis also described in detail the entire course of the deliberations on the Cyprus issue since New Democracy took over the government and up to the delivery of Anna's full plan to the political parties on Thursday morning, noting that the plan required ''detailed study, so that the citizens may be informed precisely on the provisions of the plan'', and adding that he was at the disposal of the parties ''today and in the near future'' on the issue.
The Greek prime minister further explained that he had responded in the affirmative to Annan's personal invitation for him to attend the final stage of the Buergenstock negotiations ''so as to contribute to achieving a solution'', but also ''because I consider it my firm obligation to devoutly adhere to my country's obligations emanating from the New York agreement''.
Parliament-Cyprus developments-Party leaders: Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou said Friday that his party would take a position on the fifth Annan plan ''with cool-headedness'', being fully aware that ''for the first time we are so close to a solution'', adding that ''in the framework of the EU, it is possible to expand the positive points of the plan''.
Papandreou also announced his acceptance of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' call for a meeting of the political party leaders chaired by President Costis Stephanopoulos to discuss the latest Cyprus developments.
The main opposition leader said he had no intention at this time to make any criticism on the government's handling of the Buergenstock negotiations, since ''it would be a mistake to create a climate of national defeatism...''. He did, however, point to his own contacts with the Irish presidency of the EU, with UN secretary general Kofi Annan, with EU enlargement commissioner Gunther Verheugen, EU High Representative for Security and Defense Policy Javier Solana, and Annan's special adviser on the Cyprus issue Alvaro de Soto, and defended the preceding PASOK governments' handlings, rejecting insinuations that the current Greek government had gone to Switzerland ''with its hands tied''.
''Turkey was dragged to the negotiations table. For the first time, we are so near to a solution. Faced with Turkey's feet-dragging policy, we managed to radically change the conditions within which the Cyprus issue was moving for so many years. We defended the strategy of internationalization of the problem and taking advantage of the prospect of Cyprus' EU accession. We took the Cyprus issue out of oblivion,'' Papandreou said.
He said that the New York talks in February were the result of Cyprus president Tassos Papadopoulos' initiative towards the UN chief, forcing Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and Turkey to negotiate in the framework of a binding timetable, and therefore ''it is a mistake for anyone to talk about 'tied hands'. It was our initiative, and there were and are margins for us to move within''.
Equally mistaken, Papandreou continued, was the credo that ''Cyprus decides, Greece supports'', calling it a ''convenient, no-cost policy'' that did not meet Greece's obligations to Cyprus.
''Naturally we respect the view of independent Cyprus and the Cypriot people, but we, too, have an opinion. It is our duty, as a country, to analyze the Annan plan and formulate our own, Greek, position, without hiding behind convenient schemes,'' Papandreou continued.
He said that PASOK would frankly express its view, without consideration of the political cost, and would calmly brief the Greek people without sentimentalities and purposeless patriotic slogans.
''Assessment of the Annan plan must not be a static and arithmetic one, but one based on the common interest of the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots,'' Papandreou said.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga, in turn, described the Annan plan as ''unjust and dangerous'', adding that ''it is of no significance whether it will be viable''.
Papariga said that the Buergenstock process had not been anything new, but a procedure that sealed everything that had been taking place for many years, officially and unofficially.. She also said it did not constitute a ''negotiation'', adding that it was positive that the process had ended without a signature from the Greek government and the Greek Cypriot parties.
Also, it was contradictory that on the one hand sobriety and avoidance of frayed tempers was being advised, while on the other hand ''extortionist quandaries are being thrown in the Greek Cypriots' faces that either they accept the plan, otherwise there will be chaos, destruction, war and isolation awaiting them''.
Regarding the positions of the two main parties of the country, she criticized prime minister Costas Karamanlis of finding himself in the face of ''faits accomplis'', noting that ''as the main opposition party (before it took over the government in March) it had the right to intervene''.
She also criticized current main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, claiming that ''during the PASOK term in office we were on the verge of finding a solution'', but the ''situation went awry'' with the Buergenstock procedure.
Papariga further said that regardless of the result of the referendum, the KKE would remain at the side of the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots ''because Cyprus is a strategic island for the plans in the Middle East that have not been realized, and any positive or negative development would have immediate consequences for Greece and the wider region''.
Coalition of the Radical Left (SYN) leader Nikos Constantopoulos advised ''cool-headed study of the pros and cons'' of the final Annan plan, noting that ''SYN will have an opinion, taking also into consideration the positions of the Cypriot Left'', and adding that it was in favor of a ''functional, viable and just solution''.
He advised that what should be examined was whether the Annan plan was a ''springboard for improvements, or for snags''.
Taking the podium again after the opposition party leaders, Karamanlis stressed that "the Cypriots have the first say", since it was they who were "called on to live with the new reality", commenting on Papandreou's criticism as to whether Greece should be supportive or a protagonist. "We neither want, nor can, impose views on them", he said, adding that Athens supported, actively participated, and undertook initiatives after conferring with Nicosia.
Karamanlis expressed his satisfaction with the level of the parliamentary discussion and the "lack of easy slogans", adding that although he welcomed criticism, "this should not occur during the critical stage of negotiations, nor when a prime minister is abroad".
He also reiterated his intention of meeting the demand for mutual briefing with the party leaders, adding that it would be correct to convene the Foreign Policy Council and that it was correct to satisfy the need for constant information and dialogue in parliament.
Source: Athens News Agency