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Media Watch 2005

12 February 2005
Source: Cypus Mail
Author: Elias Hazou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 12 February 2005.
'Annan is not being objective'
"THE GOVERNMENT yesterday described as partial the UN Secretary-General’s call on the Greek Cypriot side to make known what changes it sought on the Annan plan, insisting that the international community was well aware of Greek Cypriots’ concerns."


THE GOVERNMENT yesterday described as partial the UN Secretary-General’s call on the Greek Cypriot side to make known what changes it sought on the Annan plan, insisting that the international community was well aware of Greek Cypriots’ concerns.

Kofi Annan’s comments came on Thursday, following a meeting in London with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. In response to a question by a CNA journalist, Annan said he would urge President Papadopoulos to put on paper his views on the changes to the UN blueprint.

This would be “useful” for anyone taking part in future discussions or for the resumption of talks. The UN chief went on to call on the involved parties to “give some serious thought to the issue... and submit their proposals on what they consider the correct steps to be.”

The first reaction yesterday came from President Tassos Papadopoulos, who took exception at Annan’s statements, suggesting they were not entirely fair on the Greek Cypriot side.

“We need to look very closely at the statement,” the President said. “At first sight, I think that the UN Secretary-General’s statement was not objective.

“I don’t believe it to be objective when, on the one hand, he refers to Erdogan’s declarations (for progress on the Cyprus issue) and, on the other hand, urges our side alone to submit out views and proposals.”

Asked whether the letter he sent to Annan on June 6 last year contained specific proposals, Papadopoulos said it did not, but added that the letter voiced Greek Cypriots’ “concerns” about the UN-brokered plan and laid out the reasons why it was rejected in the referendum.

Similar letters were sent to several leaders around the world, Papadopoulos added, refuting the charge that the international community was still in the dark about what Greek Cypriots wanted.

But Papadopoulos withheld judgment on Annan’s comments, pointing out that “we cannot rely on media reports alone”.

He said the government would be asking the UN Secretary-general to clarify what he meant exactly, and would “probe” whether the United Nations was hinting at sponsoring a new initiative.

“Assuming the UN Secretary-general was talking about negotiations for substantive changes to his plan, then we’d welcome this development,” was Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides’ take yesterday.

“Our objections (to the plan) have been presented very clearly in the President’s letter to Mr Annan, with an attached document that also contained other remarks on the UN Secretary-general’s report.”

Yet Annan failed to mention these concerns in his London comments, said Chrysostomides.

Nicosia would not formally submit its positions to the UN before the context of negotiations were determined, added the spokesman, observing that Annan himself had still not clarified his intentions.

This indirect and roundabout exchange between the government and the UN chief was only the latest episode in the saga – beginning last summer – of whether the Greek Cypriot side should spell out its views or not.

Opposition parties have long been claiming that the international community does not know what to make of Cyprus’ stance because the government refuses to lay its cards on the table. For its part, the administration counters that this would be a mistake, because it would reveal its negotiating tactics.

Coalition partners AKEL and opposition DISY yesterday both pointed out that now was the chance to persuade the UN to rekindle its interest in the Cyprus problem after a long period of dormancy.

“We need to reestablish our relations with the UN Secretary-General, who seems to be affected by the result of the referendum,” said AKEL boss Demetris Christofias.

And DISY’s Averoff Neophytou said that the issue should be discussed at the next session of the National Council.

The United Democrats were more aggressive, however, hinting that the President was not being sincere.

“So what’s really going on? If (Papadopoulos’) letter in fact contained all of our views, then what have we been having all these National Council meetings for?” wondered party leader George Vasileiou.

“If, on the other hand, our positions were not explained, then I think it is disrespectful toward Mr Annan to refer him to that letter.”

Predictably, Turkey’s response to Annan’s comments was markedly different. Namik Tan, spokesman for the Turkish Foreign, yesterday said the Secretary-general was obviously referring to the Greek Cypriot side, given that Turkey approved the peace plan last April.

“As far as we’re concerned, we have no serious reservations about the plan, and that is why we accepted it,” added Tan."