Cyprus talks start with documents

President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday exchanged documents setting out amendments they would like to see in UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal to reunify Cyprus. The meeting in Nicosia’s buffer zone was the first of a new series of intensive talks aimed at reaching a deal before the Feb. 28 deadline. Clerides and Denktash will be meeting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. After the meeting, Denktash told reporters that the two sides had exchanged documents and that each stuck to their positions. «They defend their own cause and we defend ours. The positions have not changed for the moment,» Denktash said, according to the Anatolia news agency. Denktash says that unless the UN plan is changed radically he will refuse to sign it and will resign – something that opposition Turkish-Cypriot parties are demanding. Dervis Eroglu, «prime minister» of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state, ended a visit to Turkey yesterday. «We are trying to improve the document which was put in front of us by Kofi Annan suddenly,» he said, regarding to the unveiling of the plan on Nov. 11. «We expect the Greek-Cypriot side to give up its uncompromising attitude and we hope the negotiations will result in agreement,» Eroglu said. But it is Denktash who objects to basic principles of the UN plan, demanding that his breakaway state be recognized. Annan’s envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, warned that the Feb. 28 deadline could be the last chance for a solution. «The secretary-general in the last two or three years has devoted more effort and resources on Cyprus than ever before because we saw an opportunity,» de Soto said. «It is not clear that this opportunity will remain.» Denktash said that he had rejected money offered by the United States to help resettle Turkish Cypriots according to Annan’s plan. «You are ready to give money, but then controversy over whether Congress will approve it or not, whether it will be given directly to us or not… could drag on for years,» he said. Cypriot Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said, «Denktash is a prisoner of the past and it is very unlikely there can be a settlement with him in power.»

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