Cyprus deadline passes with no deal

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The Independent Online

The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, last night presented a take-it-or-leave-it blueprint for reunifying Cyprus to Greek, Turkish and Cypriot leaders after two days of talks went to the wire without delivering a deal.

Despite the failure of political leaders reach agreement, voters on both sides will now decide whether to end three decades of division in parallel referendums on April 24.

Mr Annan announced the date for the joint vote and told the assembled leaders that the time for negotiation was over and "the time for decision and action has arrived."

Negotiations at the Swiss resort of Buergenstock continued right up to the midnight deadline as the UN unsuccessfully sought endorsement on the latest revision of its peace plan.

The UN chief called on all sides to support the "fair and workable" solution to Europe's longest running conflict in time to see a united Cyprus join the European Union on 1 May. In the absence of a deal only the internationally recognised Greek-Cypriot republic will join the bloc. "This is not a choice between this settlement and a future magical or mythical settlement. It is a choice between this or no settlement at all," he said.

The Turkish side were quick to express support for the plan which is widely seen as favourable to the Turks. The Greeks expressed their disappointment at the latest revisions and described chances of a solution as "poor".

Both sides are expected to conduct the referendums as planned. A Greek Cypriot 'no' in combination with Turkish Cypriot 'yes' could be the first step to a formal partition of the island, diplomats said.

Phillipos Savvidis, a spokesman for the Greek thinktank Eliamep warned Greek-Cypriot voters to contemplate the consequences before voting 'no': "It has to be clear what it means. The blame will fall exclusively on the Greek side."