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Future of Cyprus Peace Plan Uncertain - 2004-04-01

The fate of the final U.N. plan to reunify Cyprus is now in the hands of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot people, who will vote in a referendum on the plan April 24. Their leaders do not like the plan, but the people will have the final say.

Many Cypriots have spent the past few days watching a lot of television and listening to radio newscasts, eager for information from the reunification talks in Switzerland. It was past midnight when the talks broke up, and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that he would finish the plan himself, as had been previously agreed.

Both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders said they do not like the final plan, but here in Pyla people are keeping their minds open. Many say they have not yet seen the details of the plan, or heard their leaders' detailed objections to it. In general, it creates a loose confederation between the Greek and Turkish sectors of the island.

At a Greek Cypriot coffee shop, the owner, who gave his name only as Andreas, says he will wait and see what President Tassos Papadopoulos has to say, and he will also talk to his neighbors.

"We will see about that when the plan comes, we read the newspapers and watch the television," he said. "If you see here in this coffee shop, there are some Turkish people, we sit together, we drink our coffee, and we talk about that."

Just across the street, at the Turkish Cypriot coffee house, opinions are much the same. One coffee drinker is Hussfien Alibeyogtu, the administrative secretary of the Turkish Cypriot community in the town.

"We have been paralyzed from the whole world for a long period," said Hussfien Alibeyogtu. "The Turkish people here really are ready to walk into peace. So it seems that if this plan is a plan which is going to give peace to Cyprus as a whole, for our children and our grandchildren, the Turkish people would say yes."

Opinion polls published in the Greek southern part of Cyprus suggest Greek Cypriots will reject the U.N. plan. Many people feel it demands too many concessions, particularly regarding their rights to family property in the north and by allowing the continued presence of Turkish troops on the island.

North Cyprus President Rauf Denktash did not attend the U.N. talks in Switzerland, and says he might encourage his supporters to vote against the reunification plan.

"Outsiders have decided how the settlement should be, they have given us limited margin for changing of what they have put on paper, they are in a great, shameful hurry to finish the job and the pressure on us is really unacceptable," he said.

Other northern Cyprus officials may urge support for the plan. Indeed, analysts say it is possible that northerners could approve the plan, while southerners reject it, the opposite result from what was predicted just a few weeks ago.

If either side rejects the plan, only the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot south will enter the European Union on May 1, and the 30-year international isolation of northern Cyprus will continue.