17 September, 2003
WASHINGTON, 17/09/2003 (ANA – T. Ellis)
Foreign Minister George Papandreou met here on Tuesday with the State Department special coordinator for Cyprus Tom Weston.
Weston later cited what he called an identity of views by the two sides over the Cyprus problem, as well as a productive exchange of views.
He also reiterated Washington’s position for an immediate restart of talks by the two sides on the island, one leading to a Cyprus solution as soon as possible. He added that efforts in the current phase are centered on the period until the island republic formally joins the European Union on May 1, 2004.
Moreover, he noted that the point is not whether negotiations begin immediately or after December elections in the Turkish-occupied north of the island, but rather whether enough time will be available to allow their completion and the holding of a referendum in both communities by May 1.
The veteran American diplomat was also briefed by Papandreou over his recent contacts on Cyprus last week, while discussing what meetings may take place next week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, where both Papandreou and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos will participate.
Finally, in reference to UN Chief Kofi Annan, Weston said he stands by his positions on the matter and over his mission, adding that he (Annan) is ready when all sides express their political will – a reference to Annan’s role as a key broker in talks aimed at a Cyprus solution.
Weston also referred to the UN Chief’s and the US side’s disappointment at the “lack” of response until today, a statement indirectly pointed at the Denktash regime in the occupied areas.
On his part, Papandreou said a solution to the Cyprus issue remains the priority of Greek foreign policy. In this context, he underlined Tuesday's meeting between Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos in Athens and his own visit to Nicosia a week ago.
The foreign minister said Weston expressed to him the readiness of the US to contribute to the lifting of the deadlock and the seeking of a solution based on the Annan plan.
During the 45-minute talks at Papandreou's hotel, an ''assessment of developments and of the situation created'' was made also in light of the ''election'' to take place in the Turkish Cypriot community in December.
Also discussed was Annan's intention to activate himself once again, provided the Turkish side previously shows the political will to participate in substantive negotiations on the secretary general's existing plan.
Papandreou met later with the leadership of the ''Jewish American Committee'', discussing latest developments in the Middle East, explaining the position of Greece, as well as of the EU, on the issue of Israel's expressed intention to ''remove'' Yasser Arafat and stressing the need of ''salvaging'' the road map.
Source: Athens News Agency