Cyprus talks gear up

Greece and Turkey today begin talks on the roles they will play in Cyprus’s security arrangements if the island’s two communities agree to a reunification plan presented by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. With the Feb. 28 deadline for acceptance of the plan approaching, Cyprus’s president-elect, Tassos Papadopoulos, said that he would not have the time to meet with Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash before Annan visits the island next Wednesday for a final push before the Friday deadline. In another development, the US State Department coordinator for Cyprus, Thomas Weston, is to visit the island to help push for a solution. Weston was to leave for Cyprus yesterday and will also visit Greece and Turkey. «We intend to work with the new president to build on our strong record of bilateral cooperation. Achieving a just and durable settlement on the basis of the UN plan is the most immediate and pressing issue, especially in light of Ambassador Weston’s and the UN secretary-general’s upcoming visits to Cyprus,» State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Wednesday. The leader of Turkey’s ruling party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, contradicted his country’s Foreign Ministry spokesman yesterday regarding the former’s comment on Wednesday that Papadopoulos carried «fairly heavy baggage» in having been a supporter of the EOKA underground independence movement. «It would be a mistake to say anything before we determine his policy,» Erdogan said. «We must first see what position he will take… how much flexibility Mr Papadopoulos will show or how intransigent he will be.» Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis said that Ambassador Alexandros Philon and the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s political director, Baki Ilkin, will be meeting in Ankara today, «in order to discuss the issue of security in the framework of a solution for Cyprus’s political problem.» Military experts from both countries will also attend, Beglitis said. Greece, Turkey and Britain are Cyprus’s guarantor powers. Papadopoulos held his fourth meeting with de Soto yesterday, to be briefed on the reunification talks held between his predecessor, President Glafcos Clerides, and Denktash. Papadopoulos is to visit Athens on Monday and said he had no time to meet Denktash before Annan’s arrival in Cyprus on Wednesday. «There is no time,» he told reporters.