Foreign Minister George Papandreou, representing the EU presidency, his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini and the EU’s commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, met yesterday with officials in Ankara as part of the process to bring Turkey closer to the EU. Apart from EU-Turkey relations, Cyprus and Iraq were high on the «troika’s» agenda. Verheugen stressed that the opportunity presented by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan for a solution to Cyprus should not be missed. The UN deadline for Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to reach agreement is Feb. 28. «There is an opportunity until February,» Verheugen said, noting that Cyprus has already been invited to join the EU. «Cyprus will join the EU in May 2004. Nothing can change this. The point here is whether or not this would be a united Cyprus,» he said. Verheugen stressed that the Turkish-Cypriot leader should not ignore the wishes of his people, who have held mass demonstrations demanding a solution so that they too can join the EU. «There will not be a better plan than this,» he said, according to the Anatolia news agency. Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said he would discuss with other officials Papandreou’s proposal for bilateral talks among Cyprus’s guarantor powers regarding the security situation on Cyprus. Papandreou also appealed once again for Turkey to help solve the Cyprus problem and Greek-Turkish issues. «Solutions will be to the benefit not only of the two countries but of Turkey’s European orientation as well,» Papandreou said at the end of his visit. On Cyprus, Denktash said after a meeting with Clerides that the Cypriot president had rejected his proposals for changes to Annan’s plan. Asked whether the Feb. 28 deadline could be met, he replied, «We’ll see.» Meanwhile, the leader of Turkey’s ruling party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has repeatedly called for a solution to the Cyprus issue and who met with Papandreou, said yesterday that he believed the lack of a solution for Cyprus was not a solution. «Politics is the art of creating solutions and not problems,» he said.