NEWS

Erdogan wants Cyprus talks

ANKARA (AFP) – The Turkish government confirmed yesterday it will initiate its own bid to reunify Cyprus, following the failure of a last-ditch UN effort, and called for talks with Greece next week to discuss the problem. «We will not give up on our efforts to seek a solution to Cyprus just because there is a deadlock on the UN plan,» Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told MPs from his ruling Justice and Development Party. «We want to make a new attempt at Turkey’s initiative,» he said. Last month, a marathon bid by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan failed to achieve reunification before the Mediterranean island signs its official European Union entry agreement on April 16, with Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash rejecting the plan. Erdogan said that Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul would visit the Turkish-Cypriot side tomorrow to «launch the new steps,» but did not elaborate. He also said he and Gul would meet Greek officials next week on the sidelines of a regional summit in Belgrade. «On April 8… Foreign Minister Gul and I will meet the Greek prime minister and foreign minister. I hope our efforts will make a positive contribution to the Cyprus problem,» Erdogan said. Athens said the Belgrade meeting had not been confirmed. «Cyprus is an open issue for us. The meeting has not been finalized yet, but we cannot rule out that it will take place,» government spokesman Christos Protopappas said. [Last week, Erdogan proposed five-party talks on Cyprus involving the republic of Cyprus, the Turkish-Cypriot leadership and representatives of the three guarantor powers – Britain, Greece and Turkey. Nicosia, which insists on the need for the UN to handle peace talks, dismissed the idea.]