NEWS

Turks make issue of new Cyprus chief

As Cyprus’s president-elect, Tassos Papadopoulos, met twice yesterday with UN envoy Alvaro de Soto to be briefed on talks aimed at ending the island’s division, Turkey charged that the Greek-Cypriot leader elected on Sunday was burdened by his past as a fighter for the island’s independence. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash also commented on a reporter’s question that in 1967 Papadopoulos had called for his death, saying that he could still meet with him. «Everything happens in politics,» the Anatolia news agency quoted Denktash as saying. «I think he will say: ‘God took pity on you, so I did not get you killed. I did a good thing in not murdering you.’» Denktash added: «We are obliged to meet with the leader of the Greek-Cypriot side, whoever he is, for the interests of our people and for the solution of the Cyprus question. To this end, there is not any meaning in saying bad things about him and souring relations. He knows what he did. We know what he did. However, there is no meaning in focusing on those.» Papadopoulos, a London-trained lawyer, was a member of the island’s first Cabinet in 1959 and was a political leader in the Greek-Cypriot EOKA underground organization that fought Britain for independence. He has denied being an anti-Turkish hardliner, something that his political opponents accused him of before his election. In Ankara, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yusuf Buluc said Papadopoulos was not an unknown. «On the contrary, he brings with him the fairly heavy baggage of his having supported EOKA.» Anatolia said that Foreign Undersecretary Ugur Ziyal had warned de Soto of Papadopoulos’s past in a meeting on Monday. De Soto replied that Papadopoulos said he would continue negotiations within the framework of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan. Annan is to visit Ankara on Sunday before coming to Athens on Monday. He will go to Cyprus on Wednesday to push for a deal by the Feb. 28 deadline. «No one can force me to sign anything,» Denktash repeated yesterday. Greek, Cypriot and Turkish officials have expressed doubt that agreement will be reached by deadline.