NEWS

Ankara is revising Cyprus policy

Less than a week after Turkey’s unofficial leader said he was not in favor of continuing Ankara’s policy on Cyprus, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said yesterday that it was revising this policy. Previously, officials had backed Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who has objected to basic elements of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s peace plan. On January 2, ruling party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: «I do not favor pursuing policies which have been pursued on Cyprus for 30-40 years… We will do whatever falls on us. This business is not Mr Denktash’s personal business.» He also urged the veteran Turkish-Cypriot leader to heed the call of tens of thousands of his compatriots who have held demonstrations calling for a deal by the Feb. 28 deadline set by the UN which would allow a united Cyprus to join the EU. Denktash, in an interview with the Italian daily Repubblica yesterday, chose to question Erdogan’s credibility. «The silent majority of the country is on my side,» he said. «Mr Erdogan’s statements have sown confusion among some, because he says one thing one day and another the next. We do not look at what individuals say, but at what the Turkish authorities say, in other words the National Security Council and the head of state, the prime minister and the foreign minister.» But the Turkish establishment signaled its own change yesterday, while stressing that it had no differences with Denktash. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yusuf Buluc told reporters that Ankara was working on a new approach on Cyprus. «With the presentation of the Annan plan, a new element has been added, aimed at bringing a peaceful solution to the Cyprus problem,» he said. «There is a need for a policy revision to take into account the necessities of this new element and the needs of that revision are being put in place.» He gave no details. In comments to the newspaper Radikal yesterday, Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said the final touches were being put to the policy revision. «The work, which has been going on for some time between military and civilian officials and Turkish-Cypriot authorities, has reached its final stage,» he said. The aim, he said, was to outline «a position which will be accepted by all sides, including the Greek Cypriots.» He said this would be unveiled soon, not «in terms of weeks.» Prime Minister Costas Simitis, meanwhile, has written a letter to Annan stressing his government’s «strong commitment» to the search for a «whole, viable and functional solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of UN resolutions.» In the letter, dated Jan. 2, Simitis noted that for progress to be made by the Feb. 28 deadline, Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots must show «a more constructive manner and good will.» In Nicosia, the Greek Cypriots’ chief negotiator, Alekos Markides, told a news conference he had taken leave without pay from his post as the island’s attorney general since Saturday, when he announced his candidacy for the presidency. Markides is now pitted against incumbent Glafcos Clerides (from the same party) and opposition candidate Tassos Papadopoulos. Markides disclosed that after Cyprus was invited to join the EU at last month’s Copenhagen summit, Clerides assured him of his backing. But last Friday Clerides said the need to negotiate a deal on Cyprus forced him to stand for a new, limited term. Markides argued the 16-month term proposed by Clerides would not be enough for a solution and would lead to a drawn-out pre-election period. «It is a political mistake for him to run,» he said.