24 April 2004 United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today Cyprus missed an historic chance to resolve the decades-long problem after voters rejected a reunification plan, leaving the island nation divided as it prepares to join the European Union next week.
"A unique and historic chance to resolve the Cyprus problem has been missed," Mr. Annan's Special Adviser, Alvaro de Soto, said today in Nicosia after Greek Cypriots voted against the plan that would have created a United Cyprus Republic, composed of a Greek Cypriot constituent state and a Turkish Cypriot constituent state linked by federal government.
"The Secretary-General respects the outcome of the two referenda. He knows that for many Cypriots the decision [of] how to vote was a difficult one," Mr. de Soto said, pointing out that Cyprus will remain divided and militarized as it joins the EU on 1 May, while the benefits of a settlement will not be realized.
The Secretary-General, who Mr. de Soto said will give "careful thought" to the implications of today's result, applauded the Turkish Cypriots for approving the plan despite the significant sacrifices that it entailed for many of them.
"He regrets that the Turkish Cypriots will not equally enjoy the benefits of EU membership, but he hopes that ways will be found to ease the plight in which the people find themselves through no fault of their own," Mr. de Soto said in reading a statement on the Secretary-General's behalf.
"Together with a broad cross-section of the international community, the Secretary-General remains convinced that the settlement plan…represents a fair, viable and carefully balanced compromise," his Special Adviser said, adding that Mr. Annan also hoped that the Greek Cypriot electorate may "arrive at a different view in the fullness of time, after a profound and sober assessment of today's decision."
He stressed that a settlement to the long-standing Cyprus problem "would benefit the people of Cyprus, as well as the region and the wider international community."
The Secretary-General also voiced appreciation for the strong backing that the plan received from many political figures on both sides. "He is grateful that Greece and Turkey, the Security Council, the European Union and the broader international community stood ready to throw their support behind the Cypriots and work to ensure full implementation," Mr. de Soto said.