NEWS

Denktash begins to budge

Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash came under concerted pressure from the United Nations, the USA and his own people yesterday and signaled that he would agree to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan being the basis for talks aimed at solving the Cyprus problem. The UN received a letter from Denktash overnight and was studying it. «It does appear from the letter that Mr Denktash is prepared to negotiate on the basis of the plan,» Annan’s associate spokesman Stephane Dujarric said yesterday. Annan has written to Denktash and Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides urging them to inform him by Saturday of their observations on his plan. Only the Greek Cypriots met Annan’s deadline of Nov. 18 for accepting the plan. «The message is not an ultimatum. It asks the two sides to inform him by Saturday which points of his plan, in their view, need to be negotiated and altered,» said Cyprus government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou. Denktash told Turkey’s NTV television the UN request was positive. «When both sides put everything they disagree with in the middle, it will become self-evident whether this document can be negotiated or not,» he said. «But inside the plan, beginning with territory… I think there are many elements that must be changed, but we will negotiate these.» US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Foreign Minister George Papandreou met in Washington and discussed Cyprus and Turkey-EU ties. An invitation for Cyprus to join the EU is to be extended at its Copenhagen summit on December 12 and both ministers said progress on Turkey’s EU membership could also encourage Ankara to support Annan’s Cyprus plan. Powell called Annan’s plan an «historic opportunity» to reunite Cyprus. «I hope that both sides will respond in a way that allows the process to move forward,» he said. «We focused on the opportunity that is before us over the next two weeks with possibility of a date or ‘date for a date’ with respect to Turkey’s accession to the European Union with the prospects of some movement forward on Secretary-General Annan’s plan for Cyprus,» Powell said. «A lot of pieces are coming together.» Papandreou expressed hope of a Cyprus solution by Copenhagen. «We’re working toward the date of December 12, so the united island could be welcomed into the EU… We also support the important decision that we will be making in the EU about Turkey,» he said. Thousands, meanwhile, marched in the Turkish sector of Nicosia, urging Denktash to accept the UN plan. The Turkish-Cypriot TAK news agency said 12,000 people took part in the demonstration, but Turkish-Cypriot reporters said the turnout was one of the biggest in recent years and put it at up to 20,000, The Associated Press reported. The demonstration was backed by opposition parties and «This Country is Ours,» an alliance of 92 non-government organizations, professional associations and unions supporting reunification. A poll conducted by Greek company Alco and Cyprus’s Symmetron on November 22-26 found that 52 percent of Greek Cypriots would like to see two independent states, 17 percent preferred Annan’s plan for a common state and two «component states,» another 17 percent wanted neither and 14 percent did not know or did not reply, said Greek independent MP Stefanos Manos who commissioned the poll. (AFP, AP, Reuters)