NEWS

Athens fears Turkish complications

The Greek government was watching developments in Turkey carefully yesterday, with senior officials noting that the outcome of the dispute between the ruling party and the Turkish establishment would determine to a great extent the course of Greek-Turkish relations and the efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus issue. The dispute was highlighted by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer’s vetoing constitutional changes that paved the way for Justice and Development Party (AK) leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan to enter Parliament and become prime minister. He was banned due to a conviction for Islamist sedition. Greek officials say that they have found Erdogan and his party more willing to work toward the solution of the Cyprus issue and Greek-Turkish problems. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who won support in Ankara on Wednesday for his hard line, said he would work toward a solution for Cyprus before the Feb. 28 deadline set by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, but, in incendiary language, complained that the international community should not have recognized the government of then President Makarios as the sole Cypriot government in 1964. «The UN Security Council recognition in 1964 of the government of the terrorist Makarios with the bloodstained hands is what hinders a solution to the Cyprus problem,» Denktash claimed yesterday. UN-mediated efforts to reunite the island after the Turkish invasion of 1974, however, have been blocked by Denktash’s insistence that his breakaway state on the island’s north be granted international recognition – something which it is not likely to get. Denktash said he would continue negotiating with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides. «We will continue these negotiations with a good will until the end of February,» he told the press. Meanwhile, about 500 Turkish-Cypriots held a demonstration urging Denktash to accept the deal offered by Annan and so allow Turkish Cypriots to enter the EU along with Greek Cypriots. Regarding what preceded the EU summit last week, Denktash said: «The whole tactic was based on the idea that seeing as Turkey was going to be invited to join the EU, it would persuade Denktash up until Dec. 12, with the result that, facing a fait accomplis, (we) would sign a text that would solve the Cyprus problem. We would have lost a third of our territory, would have sovereignty only in word, and would have to gradually take in the Greek Cypriots… The status as a founding partner that we had in 1960 would have been changed into that of a minority with benefits, within the Republic of Cyprus. And in five or 10 years, the Turks of Cyprus would have been forced to leave the island, like the Turks of Crete.» The UN Security Council on Wednesday expressed regret «that the Turkish-Cypriot leadership had not responded in a timely way to the initiatives» taken by Annan. It stated support for Annan’s efforts to «bring about a settlement in the first two months of 2003» and urged the parties to «seize the historic opportunity to bring a peaceful, just and lasting settlement to the Cyprus problem to the benefit of all its people and its wider region.» Alvaro de Soto, Annan’s special envoy for Cyprus, said Annan had «written to the two leaders today as well as to the leaders of Greece and Turkey setting out the road ahead as he sees it and… drawing their attention to the need to move fairly quickly on a number of issues that are pending.»