- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2002

A U.N. draft plan and a positive stance by the new Turkish leaders have raised hopes for an early solution to the thorny issue of divided Cyprus, Greece's top diplomat has said.
"Positive statements by the new Turkish government and a new proposal by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan have raised hopes for a solution that will allow Cyprus to enter the European Union as a united nation," Foreign Minister George Papandreou told reporters during a Washington visit last week.
He spoke after meetings with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
The visit, preceding Greece's accession next month to the presidency of the European Union, focused mainly on the 28-year-old Cyprus problem.
The approaching admission of Cyprus to the European bloc also has added momentum to the efforts to find a solution.
Seizing the moment, Mr. Annan released a draft plan last month as a basis for negotiation and asked the leaders of the Greek and Turkish ethnic communities on the island to accept the draft by Dec. 9.
In Turkey, the occupier of the northern third of the island since its invasion in 1974, a Western-oriented Islamic party won recent elections, marking a shift away from the strictly secular character of the government.
Recep Tayyib Erdogan, the leader of the Justice and Development Party that came to power, and Prime Minister Abdullah Gul have supported Turkey's application to join the European Union and also have agreed to consider the new U.N. draft plan on Cyprus.
Mr. Erdogan has begun a swing through Europe to convince EU members that Turkey will consider any reasonable solution to Cyprus.
"The new government in Turkey has shown a positive attitude," said Mr. Papandreou, who disclosed that he is set to meet with his new diplomatic counterpart, Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis.
Mr. Papandreou also discussed with U.S. officials a wide range of issues, such as NATO expansion, Iraq, the Balkans and the Middle East conflict.
On NATO, he viewed the alliance as changing from an armed force for the defense of Western Europe to a collective security institution.
Asked to comment on the common European criticism that the United States tends to act unilaterally in foreign policy, he said the Bush administration's decision "to take the issue of Iraq to the United Nations is a very positive development."
Asked whether war against Iraq is inevitable, he replied diplomatically: "It depends on Saddam Hussein's actions and how they are interpreted."


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