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Greek-Cypriot President Rejects Criticism of Opposition to UN Reunification Plan - 2004-04-25


Greek-Cypriot President Tasso Papadopoulos is rejecting international criticism of his government for opposing a U.N. plan to reunify Cyprus. The plan was rejected by Greek-Cypriot voters Saturday.

Speaking at a news conference in Nicosia, President Papadopoulos said the U.N.-mediated plan was not a viable solution for reuniting Cyprus, and he accused negotiators of being more concerned about the needs of Turkish Cypriots and their backers in Ankara than about the needs of Greek Cypriots.

"Basic concerns of the Greek Cypriot side have been disregarded," he said. "It seems that everybody involved in the talks were anxious to bring on board Turkey and ensure a yes vote by the Turkish-Cypriot community, ignoring the fact that the far bigger Greek-Cypriot community had also to be convinced to vote yes on the plan. Thus, this process has failed in addressing the legitimate concerns, need, and interests of both sides."

Mr. Papadopoulos rejected accusations that he had deceived international negotiators into thinking he would go along with the U.N.-mediated blueprint. He also said his government remains committed to a fair and viable solution to the Cyprus problem.

The U.N. plan called for Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot states in a loose federation. It called for the removal of almost all Turkish troops now based in the northern Turkish-Cypriot enclave and outlined a settlement of outstanding land and property issues sparked by ethnic partition 30-years ago.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, following a Greek Cypriot coup that was backed by Athens and aimed at uniting Cyprus with mainland Greece. Partition of the island followed, and Turkey still maintains about 40,000 troops in northern Cyprus.

In separate balloting on Saturday, three-fourths of Greek-Cypriot voters rejected the U.N. plan, while more than 60 percent of Turkish Cypriot voters endorsed it.

Most Turkish Cypriots felt that reunification under the U.N. plan would end their long economic and political isolation and offer them a better future within Europe.

The overwhelming majority of Greek Cypriots remained wary of any remaining Turkish troop presence or Turkish influence in northern Cyprus. They believe they can better deal in the future.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who worked out the plan, said Greek Cypriots had missed a unique opportunity.

The special U.N. mediator for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, announced late Saturday he is shutting down his office. "A unique and historic chance to resolve the Cyprus problem has been missed. The secretary-general intends to give careful thought to the implications of Saturday's results," he said. "Meanwhile, Cyprus will remain divided and militarized as it accedes to the European Union and the benefits of a settlement will not be realized."

The United States also spoke of missed opportunities, regret and disappointment, as did the European Union.

The Turkish government said the island's partition now becomes permanent. Despite rejecting the U.N. plan, the Greek Cypriot government will take Cyprus into the European Union May 1. Turkish Cypriots will be left out. But the international community is talking of providing aid and perhaps lifting a long-standing embargo against the Turkish-Cypriot enclave.

President Papadopoulos said his government would present measures to help Turkish Cypriots enjoy some of the benefits they would have had as EU members at an EU meeting Monday in Luxembourg. He declined to elaborate.

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