NEWS

Diplomatic flurry on Cyprus

As international diplomatic pressure mounted on the Cypriot government and the Turkish-Cypriot leadership to agree on a peace deal by next Friday, Greek and Turkish officials meeting in Ankara made no leeway in discussions on reducing military forces on the war-divided island. US President George W. Bush told UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan he backed his efforts to press both sides into an agreement on ending the 29-year division. Annan, who has already tabled two peace plans and is understood to be about to unveil a third version, has urged Greek and Turkish Cypriots to strike a deal by February 28. He starts a visit to Turkey, Greece and Cyprus tomorrow. In a telephone call to Annan yesterday, Bush «reaffirmed his support for the secretary-general’s mission to Cyprus and the importance of reaching a resolution on Cyprus,» White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. US presidential envoy for Cyprus Thomas Weston arrived on the island yesterday, stressing the urgency of the situation. «The decisions taken in the next couple of days by Cypriots are more than of historic importance,» he told journalists. «They will determine the island’s future and so cannot be underestimated.» Today, British envoy Lord David Hannay arrives in Nicosia for an «open-ended» stay. Yesterday, Cypriot president-elect Tassos Papadopoulos met UN envoy Alvaro de Soto, who then flew to Ankara for consultations with Turkish officials. Meanwhile, talks between Greek and Turkish diplomats on the two countries’ security roles on a united Cyprus ended in Ankara yesterday without achieving any progress, Greek sources said, claiming Turkey showed no sign of wanting to «negotiate seriously.»