NEWS

Denktash responds, finally

Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday finally submitted his first official response to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal for a solution to the Cyprus problem, allowing the process to go ahead with a new round of contacts perhaps as early as tomorrow. Only Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides had met Annan’s Nov. 18 deadline to say whether he considered the plan the basis for negotiations for a comprehensive solution. Both Clerides and Denktash missed Annan’s deadline of last Saturday to present their comments on his plan, and on Wednesday night the story of deadlines took a new twist when Denktash told the UN that he would present his comments later that night, at 11.30 p.m. Cyprus time. The UN informed the Greek Cypriots, who submitted their proposals at 11.48 p.m. – only to pull them back yesterday morning when they learned that in the end the Turkish Cypriots had not submitted theirs, ostensibly because of a problem with their fax machine. The envelope with the Greek Cypriots’ response was returned opened, and was then given back to Annan’s Cyprus envoy, Alvaro de Soto. The UN is pressing for a solution to the Cyprus issue before Thursday’s EU summit in Copenhagen, which is expected to invite Cyprus to join the EU along with another nine candidates. Turkey is unlikely to be given a date for the start of its own accession talks. French President Jacques Chirac said yesterday that France and Germany have agreed to propose a conditional date for Turkey to begin EU membership talks in 2005, subject to a European Commission report on whether Ankara met the necessary criteria. Denktash’s response was said to comprise three pages with an accompanying letter from the Turkish-Cypriot leader. The document does not express opinions but rather lists the issues on which the Turkish side wants changes to be made. These concern the way in which executive power will be wielded, security, territory, settlers and the issue of separate sovereignty of the proposed reunified state’s two components. Ankara, meanwhile, is waiting for details on a proposal it understood Foreign Minister George Papandreou had made on his visit to Turkey on Wednesday, regarding a commitment by all sides to continue working on the Cyprus issue if a solution is not found before Copenhagen. «The idea of a draft framework was proposed by the Greek foreign minister but we do not have full information regarding this,» said Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, the Athens News Agency reported. He said Turkey had asked «the Greek side to send us a text and we stressed that we will respond when we are briefed accordingly. The agency said the Greek idea was met with skepticism by the Turkish Foreign Ministry and opposition leader Deniz Baykal, who saw it as an effort to get Turkey to make «prior commitments» in response for a date for talks with the EU. President Clerides’s 15-page response to Annan’s plan outlines the parts which the Greek Cypriots believe need to be negotiated or changed. Mumtaz Soysal, a legal adviser to Denktash, said the Turkish Cypriot’s paper was «a very brief text of about two or three pages.» He told Turkey’s NTV news channel that it summarized objections to arrangements regarding Turkish-Cypriot sovereignty powers and territorial adjustments as well as proposals for the return of thousands of Greek Cypriots to the Turk-Cypriot-run north. The document also complained over the «weak» guarantorship rights envisaged for Turkey in the plan, Agence France-Presse reported.