- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

NICOSIA, Cyprus A U.N.-led effort to reunite Cyprus collapsed yesterday, leaving its inhabitants indifferent, politicians confused and the Turkish army firmly in control of the northern part of the Mediterranean island.
In the predawn hours at The Hague's Peace Palace in the Netherlands, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan reached what he called "the end of the road" in talks with leaders of the feuding Cypriot communities.
The Turkish Cypriots vehemently rejected his plan to create a bicommunal "United Cyprus Republic," while the Greek Cypriots wanted additional security guarantees.
Beleaguered by the Iraq crisis, the chief of the United Nations has run out of patience in the face of the Cypriot protagonists, divided by national allegiance, language, religion and years of animosity and fruitless conferences.
Diplomats said the collapse of the talks is likely to affect relations between Greece and Turkey, the "motherlands" of the Cypriot communities. It also might hamper Turkey's hope of joining the European Union.
"There has never been a Cypriot nation, just Turks and Greeks living in Cyprus," argued Rauf Denktash, president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is backed and recognized only by Turkey.
"If our people voted in favor of the plan, Turkey's rights over Cyprus would be destroyed," Mr. Denktash said.
Tassos Papadopoulos, the new president of the internationally recognized Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus, could not obtain limitations on Turkish military presence in northern Cyprus, now estimated at 35,000.
Turkey's top military leaders backed Mr. Denktash and his opposition to any changes in the demarcation line between the two zones.
To the Turkish military, Cyprus is a front line in their confrontation with Greece, various cosmetic efforts to improve cooperation between Athens and Ankara notwithstanding.
Mr. Annan wanted to bypass the politicians and proposed that each side hold a referendum on his plan. Opinions on the island were divided, and Mr. Annan complained that his work on Cyprus "was overshadowed by the crisis in Iraq."
The rejection of his plan, he said, "was tantamount to rejecting any solution any time soon."
Alvaro de Soto, the U.N. special envoy to Cyprus, will not be returning to his post, and some other U.N. operations concerning the island will be scrapped.
Foreign observers wondered whether, despite some slogans of unity, there was enough will to seek a solution.
The Greek-Cypriot side prepared to sign on April 16 an accession treaty for the European Union starting in 2004. The Turkish-Cypriot side did not participate in the accession talks.
Consequently, hopes that a united Cyprus could be admitted have evaporated. Speculation now centers on the possible effect of Turkey's opposition to the Annan plan on Ankara's hopes to join the European Union in 2007.

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