NEWS

The day after accession

Cyprus’s accession to the European Union was greeted with jubilation in Nicosia and Athens, with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides being given a hero’s welcome when he returned home on Saturday. But negotiations aimed at solving the island’s division are set to continue. Until a deal is reached, the people of northern Cyprus will not enjoy the benefits of EU citizens, something which prompted about 5,000 of them to stage a protest against their leader, Rauf Denktash, on Friday and the opposition Republican Turkish Party to demand Denktash’s resignation. Denktash, in Ankara, charged that the EU was trying to turn Cyprus into a «Christian fortress» and said that Turkey should annex the territory it occupies. Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, however, told CNN-Turk yesterday that Ankara might compromise by February 28, in accordance with the UN mediation proposal. «As the government, we will probably reach a compromise… We will take this decision as the government, opposition, Turkish Cypriots and non-governmental organizations,» he noted. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s special envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, will tomorrow brief the Security Council on his efforts to mediate a deal between Greek and Turkish Cypriots on the basis of Annan’s plan. De Soto failed to achieve a deal in Copenhagen on the sidelines of the EU summit, mainly due to the absence of Denktash, who was in a Turkish hospital and had sent a representative without the authority to sign. The summit’s conclusions stated: «Cyprus will be admitted as a new member state to the EU. Nevertheless the European Council confirms its strong preference for accession to the European Union by a united Cyprus. In this context it welcomes the commitment of the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots to continue to negotiate with the objective of concluding a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem by 28 February 2003 on the basis of the UN secretary-general’s proposals. The European Council believes that those proposals offer a unique opportunity to reach a settlement in the coming weeks and urges the leaders of the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities to seize this opportunity.» The EU leaders also called on the European Commission and the government of Cyprus «to consider ways of promoting economic development of the northern part of Cyprus and bringing it closer to the union.» Clerides assured Turkish Cypriots on Saturday that his government would work to share the benefits of EU membership with them. Some actions toward this are expected this week. The Greek Parliament will debate the Cyprus issue tomorrow. Late on Friday, Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed Athens’s desire to maintain momentum for a solution. «We have discussed the issue with President Clerides and decided on a series of actions, which I do not want to make public,» he said. «And I want to stress – because there are some people who think, ‘we won accession, that’s enough for us, let’s leave the solution waiting’ – that a solution is necessary. It is in Cyprus’s interests, in Greece’s interests. And it is especially in the interest of peace and stability in the whole region.» Opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis hailed Cyprus’s accession but expressed concern over the Feb.28 reference. «We hope this does not mean the tying of accession to a predetermined solution,» he said on Friday.