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Cyprus peace talks end in failure

Papadopoulos (left) and Denktash
Papadopoulos (left) and Denktash

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start quoteWe have reached the end of the road. I share tonight will all peace-loving Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well as Greeks and Turks a deep sense of sadness.end quote
-- Kofi Annan

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands -- Last-ditch marathon peace talks to reunify Cyprus have failed, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan announced Tuesday.

"Regrettably these (peace) efforts were not a success. We have reached the end of the road," said Annan. "I share tonight will all peace-loving Greek and Turkish Cypriots as well as Greeks and Turks a deep sense of sadness."

Cyprus has been divided into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish-held north since a 1974 Turkish invasion sparked by a short-lived coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkey maintains about 40,000 troops in a northern Turkish Cypriot breakaway state, which is only recognized by Ankara.

Annan, with the support of the United States and Britain, called the leaders of the Turkish and Greek communities on the island to The Hague for talks. If the plans had been approved, Cyprus could have signed an accession treaty, a prelude to joining the European Union, on April 16, as a united country.

A peace deal was vital for Turkey's ambitions to join the EU. The Greek Cypriot side of the island will join the 15-nation bloc with or without the a peace agreement in May 2004. The two sides have said they would continue talking until March 28 and hold a referendum on April 6.

But Annan was not hopeful: "I'm not sure another opportunity like this will present itself again anytime soon.

"The two leaders have expressed their willingness to continue talks, but without a firm commitment to proceed energetically to a conclusion ... it will clearly not be possible to achieve a comprehensive settlement before accession of Cyprus to the EU on April 16," said Annan.

Annan's also told his Cyprus envoy, Alvara de Soto, to close down the 18-month-old office in Nicosia.

Talks collapsed after the Turkish Cypriot side, led by Rauf Denktash, insisted that their state win full recognition, while Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos demanded refuges who left the north 29 years ago should have the right to return home.

Papadopoulos and Denktash had arrived in The Hague on Monday morning signaling they were unhappy with a power-sharing plan that would involve land exchanges and population movements.

Denktash believed the plan would create refugees and throw many Turkish Cypriots out of their homes on an island where two-thirds of the population are Greek Cypriots.

Greek Cypriots opposed the plan because it committed them to sharing power with a minority and restricted the number of Greek Cypriots who would be able to return to their former homes.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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