UN renews Cyprus talks

After a month’s break, UN-mediated talks on the future of Cyprus are to begin again this week, with the return to the island of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s special envoy, Alvaro de Soto. This week is also expected to highlight the mood of a new player in the decades-old Cyprus issue, the Turkish-Cypriot public. Opposition parties, unions and non-governmental organizations are preparing a rally in the Turkish-occupied part of Nicosia tomorrow. The Turkish-Cypriot daily Kibris, which used to be allied to Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, said that some 80,000 people were expected to attend the rally. A similar one on December 26 brought together about 30,000 in the biggest protest the Turkish-occupied part of the island has known. Demonstrators called for a deal reuniting the island by Feb. 28, the deadline set by the United Nations. The diplomatic effort stalled when Denktash did not go to Copenhagen for last-minute negotiations on December 12-13. The EU, at its summit there, invited Cyprus to join the union. If no deal is reached in time, Turkish-Cypriots will be left out of the EU. This has prompted unprecedented public dissatisfaction with Denktash. The Turkish daily Cumhuriyet wrote of a «Critical Tuesday in Nicosia» on its front page yesterday. De Soto is to arrive in Nicosia today for meetings with President Glafcos Clerides and Denktash. He started his trip yesterday by meeting with the leader of Turkey’s ruling party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Istanbul. The Anatolia news agency, which reported the 45-minute meeting, said the two made no statement afterward. The newly elected Turkish government has said that it wants to change the policy that Ankara has followed on Cyprus for the past four decades. But the military and foreign policy establishment has repeated its strong backing for Denktash. Turkish opposition leader Deniz Baykal suggested on Saturday that the United States should recognize Denktash’s breakaway state in exchange for Turkey’s support in a possible war against Iraq. Baykal is to meet with Turkey’s top military official, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, today. On Saturday, President Clerides’s Democratic Rally party strongly endorsed his decision to run for president in the Feb. 16 elections, with 242 of the 277 members of the party’s Supreme Council backing his candidacy.

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