The World including the European Union welcomed United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan’s new peace plan for Cyprus, saying it raised hopes of a peace settlement on the island before December. Annan’s proposal for a comprehensive settlement ending the decades-old dispute between the island’s Greek and Turkish communities “is a courageous and important step,” EU Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen said in a statement. “The Commission hopes that it will contribute to bridge the gaps between the two communities and lead to a settlement before the Copenhagen summit,” Verheugen added.
EU leaders meeting in Copenhagen in mid-December are expected to finalise membership negotiations with Cyprus and nine other candidate nations, including Malta and central and eastern European states. All 10 applicants will then join the EU in 2004. EU governments have said repeatedly that they would prefer a reunited Cyprus to join the Union on the basis of a comprehensive settlement. In a positive development Turkish officials gave a tentative but positive reaction to the UN blueprint.