U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is not ready to give up on a political settlement to unify Cyprus before next week's meeting of the European Union. The EU meets in Copenhagen December 12 and 13, to vote in new members.
Despite a looming deadline, Secretary-General Annan insists there is still time for the Greek and Turkish Cypriots to agree to his new plan for reunifying their divided island. "The time has not run out. We are today at the third of December and we have almost 10 days, nine to 10 days, and that is plenty of time," Mr. Annan said.
The European Union is expected to invite 10 countries, including Cyprus, to join the bloc in 2004.
Secretary-General Annan said a united Cyprus would benefit greatly from EU membership, especially the more impoverished northern part of the country, where the Turkish community set up their own independent state more than 15 years ago. "My dream is to see a united Cyprus admitted to the European Union, and a Cyprus that will enter the EU and prosper as one nation. I think the people have gone through this conflict for several decades and we now have an opportunity to end it. And I hope the two leaders will seize the opportunity and bring peace and stability to this island, and make history," he said.
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has urged the EU not to jeopardize the peace effort by admitting a divided Cyprus. Mr. Denktash, who is recovering from major heart surgery, has yet to give the U.N. a clear answer on its reunification plan. The proposed settlement calls for two component states on Cyprus, joined under a rotating presidency. It also calls on the Turkish Cypriots to give up some of the territory they now claim.
EU diplomats have said it would be enough for them to have both sides agree on a framework for reunification by the December 12 meeting. The Greek Cypriots have already said that they accept the U.N. plan as a basis for negotiations.
Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded the island in 1974, in response to a coup in Nicosia engineered by Greece. The prospect of EU membership is considered a big catalyst for a settlement, after many years of failed diplomacy aimed at reuniting the two communities.