Annan ‘very glad’ at missile decision

U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL Kofi Annan said yesterday he was “very glad” that Cyprus had decided not to deploy Russian surface-to-air missiles, and hoped it would help his initiatives to reduce tensions on the island.

Annan’s representative in Cyprus, former New Zealand government minister Dame Ann Hercus, has been holding separate meetings with President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

He said Hercus’ talks were aimed at “reducing tension and promoting progress towards a just and lasting settlement.”

“The secretary-general was very glad to hear of President Clerides’ decision not to deploy S-300 missiles on Cyprus,” a statement from Annan’s office said.

Cyprus announced on Tuesday it would not store the Russian missiles which Turkey has threatened to destroy on the island and would negotiate with Moscow for their deployment in Crete instead.

The last-minute change of heart, as the rockets were awaiting shipment in a Russian port, was made after an appeal by the UN Security Council to the two sides to work toward reducing tensions. Annan said this was a “tangible, positive, response” to the council’s resolutions.

UN-sponsored efforts spanning decades aimed at reuniting Cyprus as a bi- communal, bi-zonal federation have so far failed. The two sides no longer even agree on the format or objective for substantive negotiations.