- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

NICOSIA, Cyprus The Greek Cypriot government yesterday accepted the latest U.N. plan as a basis for negotiations to unite the divided island a decision that challenged the rival Turkish Cypriots to do likewise.
The announcement was made after a recommendation by the National Council, an all-party advisory body, despite warnings from politicians and the media that the U.N. blueprint favored the island's Turkish minority.
Greek Cypriot government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou cautioned, however, that the suggested time frame to complete negotiations before the European Union's summit on Dec. 12 was "suffocatingly tight."
Mr. Papapetrou's warning followed skeptical appraisals of the plan by Turkish Cypriot officials and their backers in Turkey, which maintains a 35,000-member expeditionary force in the northern part of Cyprus.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party won this month's Turkish parliamentary elections, described the U.N. proposal as "negotiable" but complained that the maps suggesting territorial concessions were "abominable."
The Turkish Cypriots, officially a minority of 18 percent, have controlled 37 percent of Cypriot territory since the 1974 Turkish landing.
The Greek Cypriots yesterday became the first to accept the plan submitted by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Nov. 11. Approval is also needed from Turkey, Greece and Britain, the former colonial power.
The U.N. plan calls for the creation of two semiautonomous states linked by a plethora of institutions, including a presidency rotated between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, a joint parliament with ethnic quotas for lawmakers and a "reconciliation commission."
Diplomats expect that neither side will reject the plan outright but will accept it as a basis for continuing talks that may last years. Talks in various forms between the communities have been going on since 1963.
Many of the Greek Cypriots interviewed said they would prefer to retain the status quo, with the demarcation line separating the prosperous south from the impoverished north, increasingly populated by migrants from mainland Turkey.
According to the English-language Cyprus Mail published on the Greek side, the U.N. plan "has come like a bolt out of the blue. And faced with the prospect of living and sharing power with Turks, many ordinary people suddenly realize they prefer the status quo and are openly saying so."
In the Turkish north, newspapers denounced the plan and the proposed territorial concession that would affect nearly 20 percent of the area and the movement of 42,000 people in the Turkish-controlled zone.
"This is a scandal, this cannot be accepted," read a headline in the daily Vatan.
Outgoing Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who ordered the 1974 landing in Cyprus, said the territorial adjustment was unacceptable. Former Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said the humanitarian problems stemming from the plan "would wreck the island."
The plan proposes that Turkey, Greece and Great Britain, as the former colonial power, countersign any agreement by Greek Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot President Rauf Denktash.
Greece's prime minister, Costas Simitis, has described the plan as "a starting point for constructive negotiations."


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