NEWS

Cypriots mull tactics

In the wake of the failed talks to reunite Cyprus under the proposal by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Cypriot government considered its next steps; Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash proposed a meeting with President Tassos Papadopoulos and the European Union warned Turkey that its EU aspirations were in jeopardy. «The innocent victims are the Turkish Cypriots. They do want to be in the EU. It is sad and very bitter,» Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said in an interview with the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. «Ankara would have been well advised had they more seriously considered the consequences of the failure of the talks on their own ambitions for EU accession,» he said. The EU is to consider late in 2004 whether to consider Turkey as a candidate. «I can hardly imagine that the Commission would give a positive recommendation if the situation on Cyprus at the end of next year is still the same as it is today,» Verheugen said. «To that extent, the breakdown of the UN talks is an obstacle for Turkey on the path toward the EU.» Turks and Turkish Cypriots reacted angrily yesterday to comments by EU Commission spokesman Jean-Christophe Filori who said that as a result of the failure of talks, Turkey would be «military occupying one of our member states» when Cyprus joins the union in early 2004. (Cyprus is to sign the accession treaty on April 16). Turkish Parliament speaker Blent Arinc said Filori’s statement was an attempt to force Turkey to accept Annan’s reunification plan. «We definitely don’t accept this,» he said. The Cypriot government focused on the next steps. Its attention is focused on three priorities: pointing to Turkish intransigence and blaming this for the failure of the talks at The Hague; keeping up the momentum in the effort to solve the island’s division; taking measures that will offer relief to Turkish Cypriots. Denktash reportedly expressed interest in meeting with Papadopoulos. But the Cypriot government turned this down. «Mr Papadopoulos wishes to keep the process within the UN parameters and under the aegis of the UN secretary general,» government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides told journalists. Turkish-Cypriot opposition leaders, newspapers and organizations expressed fear that they would be left out of the EU and they blamed Denktash.