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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN Presents Cyprus With Unification Plan

UNITED NATIONS -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan has presented Greek and Turkish Cypriots with a plan to unite their divided island into a single country modeled on Switzerland, with two equal states.

Annan asked the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders on Monday not to take an immediate public position but to consider the proposal and give "their reactions" by Nov. 18.

"I believe I've put before them what I consider a sound and an optimal proposal," he told reporters after presenting the plan to the UN Security Council in New York. "I know it's going to be a tough decision for them. It's going to require courage, wisdom and vision, and I'm confident they are capable of it."

The eastern Mediterranean island has been split into a Greek Cypriot-controlled south and Turkish-occupied north since Turkey invaded in 1974 following an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece. The breakaway Turkish Cypriot state is recognized only by Turkey, which maintains 40,000 troops there.

Under the UN proposal, Cyprus would be "modeled on the status and relationship of Switzerland, its federal government, and its cantons."

"Accordingly, Cyprus is an independent state in the form of an indissoluble partnership, with a common state government and two equal component states, one Greek Cypriot and one Turkish Cypriot," a summary of the proposal states.

It calls for Cyprus to have "a single international legal personality and sovereignty" and to be a member of the United Nations. It renounces "forever the threat of the use of force, or any domination" by either side, and looks forward to Cyprus joining the European Union "and to the day when Turkey does likewise."

In Cyprus on Tuesday, Greek Cypriot refugee groups and some Greek Cypriot newspapers denounced the plan, calling it a blackmailing attempt to legitimize Turkish occupation of the island's north.

A banner front-page headline in the right-wing Greek Cypriot daily Simerini condemned the plan as "A nightmare settlement." Another right-wing newspaper, Mahi, said the plan placed the Greek Cypriot side "in the vice of blackmail."

Some mainland Turkish newspapers were more upbeat in their evaluation of the plan. "Toward a solution in Cyprus," Radical proclaimed. The Vatan daily hailed the plan as "Territory for the Greek-Cypriot, autonomy for the Turk."

However, the nationalist Ortadogu newspaper described it as "Ouster for Turks."

A sense of urgency surrounded Monday's delivery of Annan's proposal because of plans for Cyprus to join the European Union in 2004.

The EU is expected to issue formal invitations to Cyprus and nine other candidates during its summit meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Dec. 12. Turkey has threatened to annex the Turkish-occupied north if Cyprus joins the EU before a settlement. For its part, Greece has said it will veto the planned EU expansion if Cyprus is excluded from the new candidates.

On Tuesday, the European Union urged the Greek and Turkish communities of Cyprus to "seize the opportunity" offered by the UN plan.

"All efforts should be undertaken to make use of the very limited time left and to bring the process to a positive outcome," said a statement by Gunter Verheugen, the EU official overseeing negotiations to bring the candidate nations into the union.