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This project started in 1997 as an initiative to facilitate the work of a group of business leaders looking into possibilities for cooperation between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot companies. Despite many practical ideas for cooperation, it was clear by early 1999 that business co-operation depended on first achieving a political settlement. At that time, the path to a settlement was blocked. Nonetheless, PRIO decided to continue its efforts in Cyprus and to build on its local knowledge and networks.
In 1999 the UN agreed to PRIO having office space and use of meeting rooms in its facility the Ledra Palace Hotel, which is in the Green Line between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot areas at the crossing point in Nicosia. Activities in 1999 focused on establishing an infrastructure, maintaining and enlarging the network of contacts, and preparing for a first dialogue meeting, which was held in Norway in January 2000.
In 2000 and 2001, the work of this new Dialogue Forum with Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot participants was expanded and it took on a lengthy project discussing options for constitutional arrangements, based on experience in different countries. In 2000, the Business Group also reconvened and met with the leaders of both the Republic of Cyprus and the "Turkish Republic of North Cyprus". Both leaders expressed interest and encouragement for the businessmen's efforts, but again practical results were lacking.
In November 2000, active Turkish Cypriot participation in UN sponsored negotiations was suspended, so that the political context was once more unfavourable for exploring co-operation.
However, in December 2001 the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders met each other for the first time in several years, and shortly thereafter launched a new intensive round of negotiation. In November 2002, the UN Secretary-General launched a plan for a comprehensive settlement. This effort came to an end in the Hague in March 2003 when the UN Secretary-General declared that an agreement was not possible at this time and suspended the UN's "good offices" mission that had been supporting the negotiations.
PRIO continues to facilitate contacts between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in many sectors of society in an effort to support an eventual, mutually accepted settlement to the Cyprus problem. PRIO does not take a stance on the substance of an eventual agreement, but emphasises the importance of openly discussing potentially difficult choices.
An extensive part of this project has been the Information Project, which had the aim to provide neutral and understandable information about the Annan Plan. Two 50 pages long 'easy to understand' booklets were produced and circulated on the island. The project also launched a web site www.cyprusdecides.org , where the booklets can be downloaded. The booklets can also be ordered from the PRIO office in Nicosia (00 357 22 456 555), by fax (00 357 226 65783) or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
It was PRIO's aim, through the project, to contribute to an informed and objective debate about the Annan Plan ahead of the two referendums in April 2004.