NEWS

Turkish Cypriots urged to keep a united front

Kyrenia (AFP) – Turkish Parliament speaker Bulent Arinc yesterday urged Turkish Cypriots to remain united behind their leader Rauf Denktash so as not to weaken their position in peace talks to reach a deal with Greek Cypriots on the future of their divided island. «To weaken (Denktash’s) hand by pointing out this or that mistake and fault at a time like this means nothing but treason against Turkish Cypriots,» Arinc was quoted as telling reporters in the town of Morphou (Guzelyurt in Turkish). «We can get angry and shout, but it is not the time for such behaviour,» the Turkish official added, underlining that Denktash had been elected by his people. Arinc was referring to a demonstration on Tuesday by more than 40,000 Turkish Cypriots, around a quarter of the population, who called on a reluctant Denktash to endorse a UN plan for a settlement ahead of Cyprus’s entry into the European Union or resign. «We have more than ever a need for union and solidarity in this vital process» of negotiation, Arinc told a press conference here earlier yesterday at the end of a three-day visit to the Turkish-occupied northern part of the island. Saying it was understandable that «different opinions» exist, he warned that the «polarization» of Turkish-Cypriot society over the question can «only serve the interests of the Greeks.» The Turkish-Cypriot people must stay united like a fist,» Arinc added. He also slammed a group of demonstrators who unfurled a banner at Tuesday’s demonstration calling the 30,000 Turkish troops based in northern Cyprus «an army of occupation.» «It is extremely regrettable. There are very few people here who have the audacity to consider the Turkish army as an army of occupation,» Arinc said. Arinc was speaking before Denktash and Glafcos Clerides, president of the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government, who resumed UN-sponsored talks yesterday under heavy pressure to agree on the UN plan by February 28 and ensure an undivided Cyprus enters the European Union next year. Denktash has strong objections to the plan as it stands, particularly the requirement for the breakaway state to give up territory and allow the return of Greek Cypriots to the homes they fled from in 1974. But Turkey, which also wants to enter the EU, has been pressing him to make concessions, and UN envoy for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto says there is little scope for further change. The plan, submitted by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on November 11 and since modified, calls for a loose confederation of two autonomous states linked by common institutions and speaking with one voice internationally.