2004 decisive for Cyprus

At the end of an unprecedented meeting with the leaders of Turkish-Cypriot opposition parties in Nicosia, Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed on Saturday that these parties and the Greek Cypriots both accepted UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal as the basis of negotiations for a solution to the Cyprus issue. The notable exception is Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who wants radical changes to the Annan plan and who torpedoed efforts to reunify the island before it signed an accession treaty with the EU. Simitis paid a two-day visit to Cyprus on Friday and Saturday as head of the country holding the EU presidency. It was the first stop on his tour of EU capitals and the 10 countries that will join on May 1, 2004. Addressing the Cypriot Parliament on Saturday, he warned Turkey once again that it had to help solve the Cyprus issue. «It is self-evident that we do not believe that all possibilities for a settlement of the Cyprus issue have been exhausted. The EU and the UN also do not believe this. And we will have to continue,» he said. «Cyprus’s European membership and the solving of the Cyprus issue on the basis of the Annan plan constitute the two sides of the same logic, of a single strategy,» he added. «There is a new deadline for a solution, and that is in 2004, between Cyprus’s becoming an active EU member and Turkey’s application for candidacy,» at the year’s end, he said. «I will stress once again, the Green Line dividing Nicosia blocks Ankara’s road to Brussels.» Simitis held talks with President Tassos Papadopoulos and other Cypriot politicians and also met with the leaders of Greek-Cypriot parties and Turkish-Cypriot opposition parties. The latter were Mehmet Ali Talat of the main opposition Republican Turkish Party, Izzet Izcan and Ozker Ozgur of the United Cyprus Party, Mehmet Suleymanoglu of the Socialist Party of Cyprus, Alpay Durduran of the Patriotic Unity Movement and Husseyin Angolemli of the Communal Liberation Party. Talat described the meeting as «fruitful,» saying Turkish Cypriots were concerned that their community «should not be treated as a minority.» Simitis said all agreed on the need for a united Cyprus. «I was given this message strongly,» he said. «It is a commonly held opinion that the Annan plan, with changes, amendments and negotiations aimed at making it more functional, is the basis on which the negotiations will be held.» Turkish officials have been wary of clashing with Denktash. State Minister Abdullatif Sener said yesterday he had signed two «important protocols» on economic issues with Turkish Cypriots.