As pressure mounts with the approaching European Union summit in Copenhagen on Dec. 12, diplomats have fanned out for a last-ditch effort to achieve agreement on a U.N. reunification plan for the divided island of Cyprus before the conclave, at which Nicosia is likely to receive an invitation to join the EU in 2004.
U.S., U.N. and Danish envoys are urging Turkey and Greece to resolve their long-standing issues -- and thus help clear the way toward Turkey's entry into the EU -- by agreeing to a framework for broad power-sharing between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
The two communities have lived apart since 1974, when Turkey seized the northern segment of the island following a short-lived coup by Greek Cypriots who had backing from Greece.
Marc Grossman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, is expected to visit Ankara, Athens and Nicosia this week, and U.N. envoy Alvaro de Soto will shuttle among the three capitals. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was due in Ankara yesterday, following a visit there and a plea by Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller for "political will" and "courage." Yesterday, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan argued that there was still "plenty of time" to reach an agreement.
Last week Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou conferred with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, and told reporters he had discussed the plan for a loose power-sharing arrangement put forward by Annan.
Under this proposal, each community would administer its own affairs, with two component states under a common structure.
The U.N. plan will face objections from the Turks over handing back territory and discomfort among the Greeks over keeping Turkish settlers on the island.
Papandreou, whose country will take over the EU presidency after Denmark, said he asked the United States to help Turkey make the necessary reforms to move things along with the EU. He said he discussed with Rice "the importance of Turkey getting a date from the EU to begin accession talks."
A Sticking Point Resolved
One of the thorns that came close to bursting the bubble of intensive negotiations for a free-trade agreement between Singapore and the United States: chewing gum.
The sticky topic was gingerly handled by both parties, with the Asian city-state softening its position to a "modest entry" provision for an item it had banned in 1992, thus depriving American manufacturers of one of their Asian outlets.
The issue was dealt with in the market-access section of the agreement and was finally resolved amicably with big bags of gum changing hands at the highest levels, sources close to the negotiations disclosed.
Trade negotiators are still chewing on one final issue, capital transfers between the two countries, with hopes that Singapore's goodwill and readiness to give a little on the chewing-gum ban will help seal the final deal by year's end.
Singapore's move to outlaw gum a decade ago followed the sudden stoppage of a new and controversial underground train system, according to Ambassador Heng Chee Chan. Hardly a week into operation, the whole system halted for two hours. An investigation found that someone had stuck a piece of gum on the electric eye of a sliding door in one of the trains, the ambassador said. This prevented the computerized closure of the door, thus obstructing the whole metro network.
Initial suggestions to ban gum in train stations became a blanket measure in response to "littering by chewing gum," as the Environment Ministry announcement put it. At the time, inhabitants of the former British colony took the ban with a stiff upper lip.
'Turning Victims Into Actors'
Queen Noor of Jordan said in an interview yesterday that her 25 years in the Middle East and visits to other troubled areas of the globe have left her determined to help people with disabilities become productive members of society.
"I've seen the ravages of conflict on people, and clearly, turning victims into actors is an important part of recovery and reconciliation," she said. "I have been a witness to the damage from land mines. They are the subterranean weapons of mass destruction, because they keep on killing, killing and killing even after the war is over."
Addressing a World Bank conference on disability and development , she said that every 22 minutes, someone steps on a land mine.
Before her speech marking World Disability Day, she noted that there are 600 million disabled people, or 10 percent of the world's population. If you look at "cost-benefit analysis and the bottom line," training these people to lead independent and richer lives is an important part of peace-building, she explained.
"Statistics do not fully communicate the indignities and wasted potential," she noted later at the World Bank forum, also attended by James D. Wolfensohn, the bank's president; Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.); Bengt Lindqvist, the U.N. special rapporteur on disability; and Judith Heumann, Wolfensohn's adviser on disability.