ECONOMY

Cypriot businessmen call off planned meeting after checkpoint controversy

NICOSIA (Reuters) – A meeting between Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot businesses to discuss European Union aid was canceled yesterday, two days before the divided island’s leaders start reunification talks. Greek-Cypriot businessmen refused to fill in or sign forms at a checkpoint leading to the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state in the north of Cyprus and the meeting with their counterparts there was canceled. «We are asked to fill in and sign documents and we refused since it is indirect recognition (of the breakaway state),» said Panayiotis Loizides, general secretary of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Greek Cypriots do not sign documents of the Turkish-Cypriot authorities because they believe it recognizes the entity. Loizides said it was the first time Turkish Cypriots had asked for signed entry cards and that they had accepted identification cards in the past. Yesterday’s meeting was to have been the first on the island between the official chambers of commerce of each side for seven years. Officials were to discuss how to utilize 1.5 million euros in aid funds which the EU has allocated to small and medium-sized businesses on the island. Turkish-Cypriot businesses have not been beneficiaries of any financial aid from the EU because authorities there have declined in the past to take advances channeled through the internationally recognized government. President Glafcos Clerides, the Greek-Cypriot leader, and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash are due to start talks tomorrow on ending the division of Cyprus. A settlement to the conflict is gaining in urgency as the island prepares for European Union membership expected in 2004.