Denktash seeks gain without pain

The Turkish government appears to be continuing its efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, with the ruling party leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meeting on Friday with US Ambassador Robert Pearson, the leader of the main opposition party in Turkish-held northern Cyprus, Mehmet Ali Talat, on Sunday, and his invitation to Dervis Eroglu, the so-called «prime minister» of the breakaway republic. About 6,000 Turkish Cypriots who are keen for a solution to the Cyprus problem so that they can join the EU when the rest of the island joins in 2004, held a demonstration against Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in Famagusta on Friday. Protests are planned for the town of Morphou tomorrow and the Turkish-held part of Nicosia on Dec. 29. Speaking on the CNN Turk channel on Friday night, Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said, «We will make honorable and frank efforts to come to a result, to an agreement, by Feb. 28.» That is the deadline set by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan who has presented a proposal for a comprehensive settlement. Asked whether the Turkish government and Denktash spoke with a different voice, Gul said, «It is very likely but also very natural.» He said that for Denktash, the Cyprus issue was the sole issue, whereas the Turkish government had to take a broader view, the Athens News Agency reported. Denktash, in an interview with the daily Milliyet yesterday, presented a set of proposals that run contrary to the deal on the table, as well as the EU’s invitation to Cyprus to become a full member. The EU says that if a deal is not reached, it will admit only the part of Cyprus that is held by the internationally recognized Cypriot government. Annan’s plan foresees a common state made up of two component states. Denktash appeared to see this as an opportunity for his breakaway state to win indirectly the recognition that it has been refused by the international community. «After admitting the Greek-Cypriot component state, start a separate relationship with the Turkish-Cypriot component state,» Denktash said. «Sign a separate accord with us on EU admission. Let us sign this agreement, but keep it suspended… until Turkey joins. Let the Turkish-Cypriot component state go into the EU simultaneously with Turkey. Let Cyprus become a united Cyprus within the EU in this way,» Denktash told Milliyet. His proposal appeared to push to the limit the beneficial aspects of Annan’s plan without accepting the overall solution and while refusing the bits that would make the deal palatable to the other side. He demanded a change to the proposed handover of territory, permanent joint presidential powers and a ban on the return of refugees to the Turkish-occupied north. He argued that allowing 28 percent of the north’s population to be Greek Cypriots returning home would not be fair because Turkish Cypriots could not comprise 28 percent of the Greek-Cypriot component state (whose population is much larger). He said that if the returning Greek Cypriots were given the vote eventually, as Annan’s plan foresees, «In 10 or 15 years, the Turkish-Cypriots will become a minority and will then disappear.» Denktash said that if Annan’s plan was modified, then agreement could be reached by Feb. 28. Meanwhile, in an interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, the EU’s commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, said he was convinced that Turkey will continue with reforms that will lead it toward the EU – which will decide in December 2004 whether to begin accession talks with Ankara.

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