New Cypriot leader, UN envoy meet

Cyprus’s president-elect, Tassos Papadopoulos, is to meet with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, today to pick up on negotiations aimed at ending the island’s division. But it was not clear when Papadopoulos would meet with Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. His predecessor, President Glafcos Clerides, whom he defeated in Sunday’s elections, had been meeting thrice weekly with Denktash in an effort to meet Annan’s Feb. 28 deadline. Clerides, meanwhile, met with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in Brussels yesterday, in what was very much a farewell to the 83-year-old president, whose term ends at the end of the month. De Soto was in Ankara yesterday. After a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Ugur Ziyal, he said that he did not expect the change of the Greek-Cypriots’ leader to change the timetable of talks. He also did not rule out the possibility of Annan revising his reunification proposal for a second time, saying reporters should wait and see. De Soto also expressed hope that Annan’s visit to the region next week would bear fruit. Annan is to visit Athens on Monday, when Papadopoulos will also be in the Greek capital to meet with Simitis. Annan will visit Ankara before going to Nicosia, where he will stay from Wednesday to Friday, February 28. In Brussels, Simitis praised Clerides, who returned the compliments. «We acknowledge your work in getting Cyprus to join the European Union, as well as your efforts to solve the Cyprus issue,» Simitis said. «Cyprus is now a member of the EU and this creates the conditions for a solution to the Cyprus problem either now or later.» Clerides responded: «I am happy that in leaving the presidency you will continue to be at the helm of the Hellenic Republic. I know that your interest in a solution to the national problem will be unwavering.» Meanwhile, European Commission President Romano Prodi, who on Monday congratulated Papadopoulos, reportedly told Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday that he was concerned in case the leadership change affected the reunification effort.