FM’s Cyprus shuttle

Foreign Minister George Papandreou is in Washington today for talks on Cyprus and Turkish-EU relations. Next week he will travel to Ankara to meet with his Turkish counterpart in a bid to get Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots to agree to negotiations on the basis of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal for a solution for Cyprus. Papandreou is to meet with Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice today. He is expected to stress to the US officials that Athens agrees with their position that the EU should give Turkey a date for accession talks at the EU summit in Copenhagen on December 12. But he will add that Turkey and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash should show a spirit of cooperation and accept the Annan plan as the basis for negotiations. Athens also wants to ensure that Cyprus is accepted as a member of the EU even if a solution to the island’s division is not found before the summit. Only the Greek Cypriots and Greece met Annan’s November 18 deadline for accepting his plan. Denktash, who is recovering in New York from heart surgery, has still not committed himself to it. Powell spoke on the telephone with Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis on Sunday and pushed the plan, said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. «We want to see this move forward promptly and are working with all the parties,» he said. «(So) that all the parties take advantage of it and… support the opportunity for progress that we now have,» Boucher said. Papandreou is to visit Ankara on December 4 for talks with Yakis and may also meet with Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, ruling party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and opposition leader Deniz Baykal. The possibility of the visit was raised during Erdogan’s visit to Athens on November 18 and was finalized in a telephone conversation between the two foreign ministers, diplomatic sources said. Yakis reportedly said the Annan plan could be accepted as the basis for talks. Annan’s special envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, met with Yakis in Berlin yesterday and is to visit Athens on Friday and then Ankara. The EU’s commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, yesterday pressed Turkish Cypriots to accept the UN plan before December 12. «I don’t think the Turkish Cypriots will get a better offer. The clock is ticking,» he told the European Parliament.

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