NEWS

Denktash wants referendum

NICOSIA (AFP) – Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said yesterday that the laws of his self-styled statelet required that a referendum precede the signing of a possible reunification deal with the Greek Cypriots, the local media reported. «This is a legal obligation. We will bring this to the attention of (UN envoy Alvaro) de Soto today so he knows about it and is not faced with a surprise,» Denktash told the Turkish-Cypriot TAK agency. Such a referendum would constitute a new obstacle to UN mediation efforts aimed at hammering out a speedy settlement to Cyprus’s 28-year division. The UN has called for a referendum on a peace deal, but after it is signed by the Cypriot leaders, hopefully by the end of February. Denktash has recently faced unprecedented demonstrations by Turkish Cypriots protesting his hardline stance against the UN plan to reunify the Mediterranean island. Denktash and Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides resumed intense talks on the UN plan last week. The plan calls for Cyprus’s reunification in a Swiss-style federation of two equal component states, with a central government speaking with one voice in the European Union and other international bodies. The UN is pressing the parties to reach a deal by the end of February to ensure that a united Cyprus signs an accession treaty with the European Union in April. The UN timetable envisages that the parties will sign a deal by February 28 and that it will be put to simultaneous referendums, in the north and south of the island, on March 30. But Denktash said the laws of the Turkish-occupied north required that agreements which «bring limitations to the [statelet’s] sovereignty and international existence» should be put to referendum before they are signed and ratified.