Turkish premier says U.N. plan for Cyprus can be revised

Friday, December 24th 2004, 3:48 pm
By: News On 6

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that a United Nations plan to reunite divided Cyprus that was rejected by Greek Cypriots could be revised as he called for new efforts to resolve the dispute.

Turkey faces growing pressure from the European Union to end the Mediterranean island's partition. Earlier this month, the bloc agreed to extend membership talks to Ankara. But EU-member Cyprus noted that it could block Turkey's accession amid a dispute over the future of the island, part of which is under Turkish control.

Erdogan accused Greek Cypriots, who in May rejected a U.N.-sponsored plan to reunite the island, of refusing to compromise. Turkey backed the plan and Turkish Cypriots overwhelmingly approved it in a referendum.

Erdogan said the plan could be changed.

``OK then, we revise the (U.N. Secretary-General Kofi) Annan plan again. It can come before us again if both sides agree,'' Erdogan said.

He also indicated a new referendum could be held.

``Both sides (can) revise it and agree on it, then submit it to the people for approval,'' he said. ``I believe that speeding up the peace process will be very beneficial.''

Later Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Greek Cypriots ``must'' move toward a solution, the Anatolia news agency reported.

``We hope that they realize that adopting a positive attitude for a lasting solution is both better for themselves and for the world,'' Gul said.

Before it can start EU membership talks, Turkey must also expand its customs union with the EU to include Cyprus, a move EU officials say amounts to de facto recognition of the island's government.

Gul said a ``recognition could be part of a lasting solution,'' Anatolia said.

Turkey refuses to formally recognize Cyprus until a settlement on the island is reached.

Cyprus has been split into a Greek south and Turkish north since 1974, when Turkey sent in troops to block a coup by supporters of union with Greece. The breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the northern is only recognized by Turkey, which has 40,000 troops there.