NEWS

Turkey edges toward talks on UN Cyprus plan

Turkey edged closer toward accepting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan as the basis for a solution to the Cyprus problem but officials kept giving out conflicting signals. Turkey’s new prime minister, Abdullah Gul, presented his Justice and Development (AK) party’s program in Parliament on Saturday. «Our government believes that it is definitely necessary to find a solution to the Cyprus problem. But this solution must not allow any initiative which will in future jeopardize the Turkish presence on the island,» Gul said. «The UN secretary-general’s peace initiative on Cyprus is positive but our government looks forward to a viable solution, a process of negotiations that will guarantee our national interests and the presence and sovereignty of the Turkish-Cypriot people on the island.» The leader of Gul’s party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is lobbying EU leaders to give Turkey a date for the start of accession talks at the EU summit next month, spoke with CNN-Turk about Cyprus yesterday. «Turkey has to take a very serious step to sort out this problem. One state based on two equal, sovereign founding states. Other issues can be debated after that,» he said. «We stress the importance of reciprocal sacrifice. We should sit and talk. But if the other side wants to get Karpaz or Guzelyurt (Morphou), we won’t give them it. Why should we?» he added, referring to the Karpas Peninsula on Cyprus’s northeastern tip and the western water-rich town under Turkish occupation. Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis met with Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who is recovering from heart surgery in New York and has missed Annan’s November 18 deadline to respond to his plan. «We think that the plan is negotiable,» Yakis told reporters late on Saturday. «We believe that the territory line has to be corrected and the water resources have to be distributed in a more equal way in the plan,» he added. «Accepting it in legal and diplomatic jargon is one thing, negotiating it is another. We believe that the way to negotiation is open. At least we don’t reject negotiation,» Yakis said, adding that he and Denktash had similar views. The Athens daily Eleftherotypia yesterday quoted Dervis Eroglu, who serves as «prime minister» in the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state, saying, «We cannot say ‘yes’ and accept the plan… It is one-sided. It was designed only to please the Greek side.» The paper did not say when Eroglu made this comment. The plan has met with some resistance on the Greek side. Yesterday, about 4,000 people attended a rally in Nicosia organized by refugees from Kyrenia. Chants and banners expressed opposition to Annan’s plan, claiming it would lead to Cyprus’s «Turkification.» Among the speakers were former Greek Defense Minister Gerasimos Arsenis and Democratic Social Movement (DIKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas. Greek-Cypriot parties have accepted the UN proposal.