Cyprus gov’t pins hopes on Erdogan

As the traffic between the two sides of Cyprus continued unabated yesterday, the Cypriot government expressed its hope that a visit to the occupied north by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 9 will help the resumption of negotiations for the reunification of the island. Government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides told Greek state TV channel NET yesterday that Greek and Turkish Cypriots have proven, beyond any doubt, that they can coexist without the troubles of the years leading up to the Turkish invasion in 1974. The free mingling of the two communities, Chrysostomides said, also affects several aspects of the peace plan presented by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Annan proposals, rejected earlier this year as a basis for negotiation by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, contained provisions that would bar the majority of Greek Cypriots who had fled their homes in the north from settling back there in the coming years. A cap on internal migration was provided for in the Annan plan in order to satisfy the fears of the Turkish-Cypriot minority about a violent Greek-Cypriot takeover. That memories run deep on the island was illustrated yesterday by a serious incident in the village of Aghia Irini, near Kyrenia in the north. Greek Cypriot Andreas Constantinou, visiting Turkish-occupied Aghia Irini, was accused by an old woman of killing Turkish Cypriots during the Turkish invasion, and was nearly lynched by angry Turkish Cypriots. He was saved by another group of Turkish Cypriots and safely returned to the Ledra Palace checkpoint in Nicosia. Sources said yesterday Erdogan, during his upcoming visit, would call for a reduction in the 40,000-strong Turkish occupying force. Erdogan has often made conciliatory statements on the Cyprus issue, sometimes berating Denktash for his intransigence. Chrysostomides said Cyprus would welcome an Erdogan announcement for the handover of the occupied town of Famagusta to UN or Greek-Cypriot control. Denktash yesterday said this would happen only if its port was used to export goods from the north.