- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2004

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The negotiations on the future of divided Cyprus appear close to a breakdown as Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot leaders remain firmly barricaded behind their uncompromising positions.

With the situation described by Greek-Cypriot sources as a “hopeless deadlock,” officials from the United Nations think that direct involvement by the governments of Greece and Turkey, scheduled after March 22, at best can only narrow some of the differences.

If that intervention fails, the U.N. formula for the island, piloted by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, will be submitted to a referendum on April 20. Ten days later, the European Union is scheduled to admit Cyprus. If it remains divided, only the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government will join.

Opinion polls on the Greek side of the island show overwhelming opposition to the Annan plan.

On the side of the island controlled by the Turkish-Cypriot minority and the Turkish army, the latest salvo signaling an expected imminent collapse in negotiations was fired by Rauf Denktash, president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

“The Greek-Cypriots have rejected in full whatever we have requested to bring the Annan plan to an acceptable shape,” Mr. Denktash said.

The Greek-Cypriot government and its president, Tassos Papadopoulos, think that the plan favors the Turkish side, requires billions of dollars of investment to raise the economic level of the Turkish zone and offers no ironclad security guarantees.

The United States, Great Britain and the European Union are urging acceptance, saying it would defuse what has become a permanent crisis.

Continuation of the status quo merely would allow the Greek-Cypriot side into the European Union as planned on May 1 without the cumbersome Turkish minority, leaving the Turkish-Cypriots as a mini-state recognized only by Turkey.

In Athens yesterday, Greece’s new government said it fully backed the U.N. peace plan but thought it was too soon to say negotiations had failed.

In his first public comments on the dispute, Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis said the Greek government “wants a positive outcome of the negotiations so there is a solution by May 1.”

The Annan plan calls for a Swiss-style confederation of two states linked by a weak central government and a rotating presidency. It envisages property concessions by the Turkish side, which holds 37 percent of the island’s territory, and a return to their homes by about half of the estimated 150,000 Greek-Cypriot refugees.

Most of the homes abandoned in northern Cyprus during and after the Turkish invasion in 1974 have been given either to Turkish-Cypriots or immigrants from Turkey.

Some diplomats and area specialists think the biggest stumbling block in Cyprus is the residual hostility of the two ethnic groups, and the opening of the barricades to allow free travel has not attenuated the difference.

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