NEWS

Next step, a solution

As calls in northern Cyprus grew for Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to resign, President Glafcos Clerides met with aides in Nicosia yesterday and discussed measures that will allow Turkish Cypriots to share the benefits of the island’s EU accession. In Athens, Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed his government’s desire to push for a solution to the Cyprus issue before February 28, the date set by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his proposal for a comprehensive settlement. «The next step now is to solve the political problem. We must get over the island’s division, within the deadlines – and, in any case, we believe this is right. That is what we will work toward and we will begin in the next few days to work for a good result, for a just, viable and functional solution,» he said after meeting with President Costis Stephanopoulos. The president congratulated the government and other parties for helping achieve Cyprus’s EU accession, adding: «It is perhaps the first practical recognition of the right of Cyprus’s cause… I hope our national issues will always have such a successful outcome.» In Ankara, a Denktash aide, Ergun Olgun, said that Turkish Cypriots had advised the UN that they were ready to resume negotiations this week. Indicative of the pressure on the Turkish-Cypriot leader, the right-wing Turkish daily Turkiye reported yesterday that Prime Minister Abdullah Gul and ruling party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan would meet with Denktash. «The Turkish leaders will propose that Denktash find a middle way regarding the plan of Annan and they will explain to Denktash that if a solution is not found, Turkey and the island will lose an EU opportunity for a very long period of time,» the paper said. The Turkish-Cypriot papers Kibrisli, Kibris and Afrika all suggested that it was time for Denktash to step aside. The Party of Social Liberation added its voice to that of the Turkish Republican Party in calling for Denktash to resign. Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis, speaking on a television program, said, «Walls have been raised around Turkey which is now on a narrow path, while the negotiating strength of the Cypriots is now much greater.» If Turkey does not help solve the Cyprus issue by Feb. 28, «the EU will claim Turkish forces are occupying a part of the EU,» he said. Clerides told Greece’s NET state TV that the measures he would announce regarding Turkish Cypriots in the next few days would be both economic and political. His interior minister, Andreas Panayiotou, told reporters that the government expected a rush for Cypriot passports by Turkish Cypriots. He said all who could prove they were Cypriot citizens were entitled to a passport. Authoritative sources said another measure would be to allow Turkish Cypriots to work anywhere on the island. Also, the two chambers of commerce could cooperate, free trade could be introduced and farm produce from the economically depressed north could be sold in the south. Speaking on Turkey’s TRT-2 channel last night, another Denktash aide, Dervis Eroglu, said that embargoes should be lifted by Cyprus in a gesture of good will to the north. Eroglu added that granting passports and offering facilities for some trade and commercial issues was aimed at destroying unity and solidarity among Turk Cypriots.