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Chances For A Cyprus Settlement Are Fading

by Lorys Charalambous,, Nicosia

05 December 2002

After both sides in the Cyprus dispute failed to meet last Saturday's deadline for a detailed response to the United Nations peace plan, the UN's special representative Alvaro De Soto said that he had hoped to receive the replies by Saturday and expressed impatience and disappointment. He also said that if both sides wanted extensive changes made to the plan it would be a problem, given the very tight timetable set for negotiations.

Internationally, frantic diplomacy is going on to try to push Greece, Turkey and the Cypriot leaders into agreement before the Copenhagen EU summit when the timetable for Cyprus's admission to the Union is due to be confirmed. US Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman was in Cyprus yesterday as part of a visit covering Athens, Ankara and Nicosia; and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was in Ankara the day before.

Straw described the UN plan as: "the best opportunity for a stable and prosperous future for both the Turkish and Greek communities of the island of Cyprus".

UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan said that the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides still have time to agree on his proposed settlement plan before the December 12 EU summit deadline. But public reaction in Cyprus as people have understood what the plan may mean for them individually is not encouraging; and the responses being prepared by leaders Rauf Denktash (still having treatment in New York) and Glafcos Clerides sound fairly uncompromising.

The Turkish Cypriots are expected to register objections on proposals in the plan concerning property, sovereignty, Turkey's guarantor rights, and territory, in a reply of about 30 pages. Denktash said he had heard that the Greek Cypriot side was going to submit around 31 pages. "Our concerns will be at least as much," he said.

On Tuesday, the Danish EU presidency received a letter from Denktash promising that his reply was imminent, and saying, as usual: "In the meantime, I hope that the whole process will not be jeopardised by the EU at the Copenhagen summit by admitting 'Cyprus' while the UN is exercising every effort to reach common ground between the two parties." Greece has promised to veto the entire EU enlargement process if Cyprus is not admitted as part of it, divided or otherwise.

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