Thursday, December 12 2002 @ 04:15 PM MSK
Filed at 1:51 p.m. ET
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. officials said on Wednesday the odds appeared slim for a peace deal on Cyprus to be reached during a European Union summit in Copenhagen, as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had hoped.
Annan was standing by, prepared to head for Copenhagen in the event his presence there could prove useful in talks on a plan for reunifying the divided Mediterranean island.
But the secretary-general was leaning against going, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
``As of now, he has no plans to go,'' chief U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said when asked whether Annan would go to Copenhagen, where the two-day summit opens on Thursday.
``We are hoping that Copenhagen will provide the context and the deadline, if you will, for agreement. I'm not in a position at midday today to predict that they are ready to compromise, ready to agree on a final statement,'' Eckhard told reporters.
Other U.N. officials, while not giving up on reaching a deal, acknowledged that it might come at some point after Copenhagen at the earliest.
As a result, aides had begun making appointments for the secretary-general in New York for the next few days, the officials said.
Cyprus's long-estranged Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities are under heavy international pressure to reach a settlement that would allow Cyprus to join the European Union in 2004 as a reunited island.
The EU is expected to formally extend its invitation to Cyprus at the Copenhagen summit.
The United Nations this week gave both the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides a revised reunification blueprint and urged the island's divided communities to move quickly to reach agreement or risk missing a ``rendezvous with history.''
NO FORCED MARRIAGE -DENKTASH
But ailing Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said on Wednesday his administration could not sign a deal in Copenhagen.
``We're not in a position to sign a document,'' Denktash told private Turkish broadcaster NTV in a live telephone interview. ``There cannot be a forced marriage.''
``We're not running away from negotiating. Give us time to negotiate with the Greek Cypriots,'' Denktash said, leaving the door open to talks after the EU summit.
Rather than go to Copenhagen, Denktash planned to travel to the Turkish capital Ankara on Thursday to drain an unexpected fluid buildup near his heart, his doctors said.
Denktash, 78, underwent two rounds of heart surgery in New York in October. He returned home to northern Cyprus last weekend after a long recuperation period.
Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan told reporters late on Tuesday that at Annan's request, he would ensure that the Turkish Cypriot side was represented in Copenhagen in Denktash's absence, in case of last-minute talks.
Turkey has tried to use international pressure for a deal on Cyprus as leverage in its push for a firm date from the EU for the start of its own entry talks. Ankara is the only candidate not engaged in EU accession talks.
Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded in response to a short-lived Greek Cypriot coup backed by the military junta then ruling Greece.