Denktash makes a bid

Just two weeks before Cyprus signs an accession treaty with the European Union, Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday offered a package aimed at ending the island’s division, lifting the embargo on his breakaway state and including the return of the Greek-Cypriot part of Famagusta that has been occupied since the invasion of 1974. The Greek-Cypriot National Council of political leaders met to discuss Denktash’s six-point plan. President Tassos Papadopoulos later invited Denktash to return to UN-mediated talks aimed at solving the Cyprus problem. This was seen as a rejection of the proposals. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis also commented on a proposal by his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that they discuss Cyprus when they meet in Belgrade on the sidelines of a Balkan summit on April 8. «I told Mr Erdogan that I cannot discuss just the Cyprus issue, we will discuss the other issues as well. In any case, the Cyprus issue is one that the Cypriots are discussing together,» Simitis said yesterday. «The UN has to play the leading role,» he added. Only Greek Cypriots will enjoy the benefits of EU membership if the island is not reunited. Ankara, which fears that Cyprus will be an obstacle to its own efforts to join the EU, came out in support of Denktash’s set of six proposals yesterday. «We fully share and support the proposals,» the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. «We believe that the proposals… will help overcome the current crisis of confidence on the island, contribute to the normalization of ties and bring a new momentum to efforts for a comprehensive settlement,» it said. It also called on the UN and the EU to encourage the two sides to implement Denktash’s suggestions. Denktash’s proposals, made in a letter to Papadopoulos sent through the UN, involve the return of Greek Cypriots to Varosha, a suburb of Famagusta; freedom of movement with minimal procedures; a lifting of bans on international trade, transportation, travel, cultural and sports activities (as the breakaway state headed by Denktash is recognized only by Turkey); a gradual increase in trade between the island’s two sides; a lifting of restrictions on UN forces in northern Cyprus; the establishment of a committee to increase mutual respect and understanding. «I believe (the package) could act as a catalyst for the realization of a mutually acceptable comprehensive settlement,» Denktash said.