NEWS

Crucial week for Cyprus, Turkey

The EU summit in Copenhagen this Thursday and Friday will help determine the future of Cyprus, of Turkey and of Greek-Turkish relations. Also, the much-delayed issue of the EU’s rapid reaction force could be decided if Turkey waives its objections to the nascent force’s using NATO assets. Although 10 countries, including Cyprus, are to be invited to join the EU, much of the bargaining will concern Turkey, which is pressing for a date for the start of its own accession talks. France and Germany have agreed to propose that these talks begin on July 1, 2005, if Turkey meets criteria on human rights and democracy and cooperates on solving the Cyprus problem. Turkey wants a date within 2003. «It is clear that a solution (for Cyprus) will become easier if the EU gives Turkey the date it deserves in Copenhagen. A firm date to be given to Turkey will facilitate the resolution of many problems both in our region and in Turkish-EU ties,» Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said on Saturday after talks with Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Nov. 11 presented a proposal for the solution of the Cyprus problem in a bid to get an initial deal before the summit begins on Thursday. His envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, met yesterday with Denktash, a day after long talks with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides. Talks focused on their comments and objections to Annan’s plan. Annan may produce a revised version today or tomorrow. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is to meet with PM Costas Simitis in Athens tomorrow, said in an interview with a German paper yesterday that Turkey would not get a date in Copenhagen. Denmark is the current EU president. Simitis is in Madrid today as part of his EU-wide trip to ensure that Cyprus is invited to join the union even if its problem is not solved by Thursday. But Denktash declared on Saturday that he would not agree to any deal by Thursday. «In the coming days, they are going to put a document before Clerides and myself so that we sign. (…) Cyprus would then join the EU and we continue to negotiate» on details of the plan, he said on Saturday. «We do not recognize that road,» he said. Stressing that he was not ready «to pay the cost» of signing a deal, he repeated his demand for the recognition of his breakaway state. «We have our state, we have our sovereignty,» he said. Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in an interview published yesterday, warned of a Greek veto against the enlargement process if any EU members raised objections to a divided Cyprus joining the EU. «Cyprus will accede to the EU in its entirety, as is foreseen clearly by repeated decisions which have been taken; the acquis communautaire will apply for as long as is needed for the political problem to be solved, in the territory on which the legal government of Cyprus wields power, and it will include the occupied territory when the political problem is solved,» Papandreou told Eleftherotypia. «This steady course cannot be – and I believe it will not be – interrupted at Copenhagen. Otherwise, the responsibility will lie with those who would cancel the enlargement process and the collective decisions that we have taken. Greece will not be held responsible for this,» Papandreou said. In the village of Pyla in which Greek and Turkish Cypriots live, politicians including Cypriot parliament speaker Dimitris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot opposition leaders met yesterday and expressed their desire for a solution. Later, about 1,000 Greek Cypriots protested in Nicosia’s Eleftheria Square against Annan’s plan.