Crunch time for Cyprus talks

Eleventh-hour talks to reunify Cyprus before the island joins the European Union on 1 May entered their make-or-break phase on Monday.

    Annan (L) confers with Cyprus delegation members

    "The plan is being given to the delegations now, as we speak," a Greek diplomatic source told reporters. UN sources confirmed the information.

    The new proposals will be a complete revision of an existing, comprehensive 450-page UN blueprint envisaging a loosely confederated state comprising ethnic Greek and Turkish zones.

    The UN move comes after Greek and Turkish Cypriots, respectively backed by Athens and Ankara, failed to bridge any of their differences after five days of talks here in the snow-covered Swiss resort of Buergenstock.
    The revised plan will be subject to tough bargaining on Monday and Tuesday between UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Greek and Turkish prime ministers Costas Karamanlis and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot chief negotiator Mehmet Ali Talat.
    Monday's proposal is the fourth version of a reunification blueprint the UN chief first presented in November 2002.


    If the Buergenstock talks fail to secure a deal by 31 March, Greek and Turkish Cypriots have agreed that Annan will "fill in the blanks" to produce a draft accord that will be voted on in separate referendums on 20 April.

    Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan is to
    participate in the talks as well

    "The final word will belong to the Cypriot people," Greek government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said in a statement on Monday.
    If either community rejects the eventual accord, only the island's internationally-recognised Greek south would join the EU.

    Opinion polls suggest that Annan's third plan, which has served as a basis for the negotiations, would have been rejected by both communities had it been put to a referendum without changes.

    Erdogan and EU enlargement chief Guenter Verheugen are expected to arrive later in the day. Karamanlis is scheduled to have separate encounters with both men in the afternoon, according to the Greek source.

    Karamanlis received a letter on Sunday from British Prime Minister Tony Blair, asking the new Greek prime minister to contribute to a solution, the source said.

    US, British intervention

    "The final word will belong to the Cypriot people"

    Theodoros Roussopoulos,
    Greek government spokesman

    On Sunday, Erdogan had said he was in contact with Blair, US President George Bush, French President Jacques Chirac and EU officials, asking for their intervention in the talks to press Ankara's case.

    Turkish Cypriots fear they might be swamped in a unified state by the more numerous and wealthy Greek Cypriots and Turkey wants exceptions to EU laws on the free movement of capital and labour to become a permanent part of a Cyprus deal - a move opposed by the Greeks.
    According to the same Greek source, Karamanlis also received a letter from the US president. "The letter did not mention Cyprus, it was just about terrorism," the source said.

    Cyprus was divided in 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the island's north in response to an Athens-engineered Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.




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