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Media Watch 2003

22 May 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Jean Christou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 22 May 2003
Cautious De Soto says Annan plan could rise from the dead

U.N. Secretary-general Kofi Annan is very reluctant to reengage in open-ended negotiations on the Cyprus problem, his special Cyprus envoy Alvaro de Soto was quoted as saying yesterday.

In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), De Soto said Annan was not prepared to become embroiled in the Cyprus question if his efforts were to lead nowhere again.

Annan was stung in The Hague in March, when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash killed off 18 months of intensive negotiations by refusing to put Annan’s solution plan to a referendum.

The Secretary-general made it clear afterwards that he was not prepared to take up the Cyprus issue again unless the political will existed on both sides, and De Soto was ordered back to New York.

De Soto told CNA yesterday that Annan would only become involved again if there was a clear framework for a conclusion. The UN was not willing to start the talks from scratch because the end result would not be much different from the Annan plan, he said.

The only hope, he added, was that the Annan plan could be revived despite Denktash’s stance.

“We would like to bring them back to where they were at The Hague,” De Soto said. In The Hague, President Tassos Papadopoulos agreed to continue negotiations on the plan and to put it to Greek Cypriots for referendum under certain conditions.

“If Denktash could bring himself to do the same, which is to agree not to reopen the plan and accept it as a basis to finalise negotiations, and if he got the backing of Turkey, and we already know Greece supports this, we would really have a basis to resume the talks and for the SG to lend his assistance again,” De Soto said.

“This would have to be with a view to actually come to a conclusion with UN assistance within a reasonable period of time in order to come back to the people through separate simultaneous referenda.

“What the Secretary General was saying is that it would not be useful for him to become reengaged in an open ended way without a clear framework, what we are saying is let us make sure that a framework exists and it has the backing of all sides and then we can go back to the effort and do it.”

Denktash has in the past month gone his own way with the Cyprus issue by opening up the checkpoints to the north, hoping the move would lead to recognition of his breakaway state and the loose confederal solution he has been pushing for years. He has said the Annan plan is dead and buried.

“Well perhaps it is,” De Soto said. “But it is dead in the way that Lazarus was dead or the Phoenix was dead, I think in these matters, matters of diplomacy, usually reports of the death of one approach or another are somewhat premature and I would argue that even if the two sides were to start from scratch the negotiations, an unlikely hypothesis, but even if they were to do so, I think that the end result of the negotiations would be not too different than the kind of plan the SG.”

De Soto acknowledged that the change in the status quo over the past month would require certain small changes to be made to the Annan plan as it stood. The plan was designed for a reunited Cyprus to sign the EU Accession Treaty in Athens in April. De Soto said there were certain things such as dates, technical aspects that may have to be looked at again, but not the substance of the plan.

“You start reopening the fundamental trade offs and the key principles and there would be no end to it, that is why the Secretary-general is asking to accept the basis on which they had both agreed to negotiate even before that fateful night in The Hague,” he said."