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4/29/04 - CYPRUS CHANCE MISSED - 2004-04-30

Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected a United Nations plan to reunify Cyprus. In a separate referendum, sixty-five percent of Turkish Cypriots voted for the plan drafted by U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan. The plan would have established a loose federation of two states, one southern Greek Cypriot and one northern Turkish Cypriot, under a central government.

United Nations Special Adviser for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, says the results of the voting are a setback for the people of Cyprus:

“A unique and historic chance to resolve the Cyprus problem has been missed. Meanwhile, Cyprus will remain divided and militarized as it accedes to the European Union, and the benefits of a settlement will not be realized.”

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish forces occupied the northern portion of the island following a failed coup led by Greek army officers serving in the Cypriot national guard. In 1983, Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state, but Turkey is the only country to recognize it.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that Greek Cypriots rejected a workable plan to reunify the island after decades of division:

“We believe the settlement was fair. It has been accepted by the Turkish Cypriot side. There will not be a better settlement. . .and we hope the Greek Cypriots will come to comprehend this in due time.”

Mr. Boucher praised the courageous Cypriots -- both Greek and Turkish -- who voted for the plan in the face of much opposition.

Despite the disappointing vote, Greek Cyprus will join the European Union as scheduled on May 1st. And along with the E-U and its member countries, the U.S. will look for ways to ease the economic isolation of Turkish Cyprus.