NEWS

Greece fears Turks stalling on Cyprus

As the EU’s summit in Copenhagen approaches, Athens is worried that the Turkish Cypriots are stalling in replying whether they accept UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal for a solution to the Cyprus problem. Greek officials fear that the lack of an agreement may lead to some EU members objecting to Cyprus’s accession. Prime Minister Costas Simitis warned again yesterday that Greece would veto EU enlargement if there were any complications. «Cyprus will be among the countries that will accede to the EU on December 12,» he told a joint meeting of his PASOK party’s central committee and parliamentary group, where a handful of hardliners criticized the Annan plan. Turkey’s National Security Council, the top decision-making body which brings together military and civilian leaders, said yesterday that it stood by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s «recent position… regarding the negotiation process.» The problem was that Denktash’s position is far from clear. Annan’s special envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, said that Denktash had sent a letter to Annan two days earlier assuring him that he was ready for talks. Officials in Nicosia, however, did not know if Denktash had accepted the plan as the basis for negotiations for a comprehensive solution or if he wanted to make changes before negotiations. Only the Greek Cypriots had accepted the plan by Annan’s deadline of Nov. 18. Annan then set a deadline for today for the two sides to tell him their proposals on various points. His plan calls for a common state made up of two component states. At the PASOK meeting, former Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said Annan’s plan would lead to a «dictatorship by (Turkish) settlers» on Cyprus. Former Defense Minister Gerasimos Arsenis said it was a «serious mistake» that the government had not prevented Annan from presenting his proposal. In the end, everyone but Arsenis agreed to a declaration (with some footnotes by Pangalos) supporting Athens and Nicosia’s efforts to find a solution according to UN resolutions and Annan’s plan. Archbishop Christodoulos, separately, repeated his opposition to Annan’s plan, saying it would lead to the «enslavement» of the Greek Cypriots.