NEWS

US, EU criticize Denktash

Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash came under criticism from visiting American and European Union officials yesterday for rejecting a new round of peace talks based on last year’s UN blueprint for the reunification of Cyprus. At the same time, both US State Department envoy for Cyprus Thomas Weston and EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenther Verheugen drew attention to Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos’s committment to seek a solution based on the plan drawn up by UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan – and rejected by Denktash in March. The UN blueprint had been intended to ensure that an agreement was reached ahead of the April 16 signing of Cyprus’s EU accession agreement, ensuring that the island joined as a united entity. The next crucial date is May 1, when the accession comes into effect. Weston said Denktash, whom he met on Monday, had adopted «a much harder position than I have seen him take in the past.» «We had a very extensive discussion and I cannot report the discovery of a great change in position on his part with regard to the Annan plan,» Weston said. «I think he has become publicly much more critical on the Annan plan.» On Monday, Denktash claimed both sides wanted so many alterations to the Annan blueprint as to make it «impossible to revive.» But yesterday Weston, who arrives in Ankara today for talks with the Turkish governmenmt, stressed that Nicosia «is saying it’s ready to return to negotiations at any time.» And Verheugen said that «the door is still open» for a united Cyprus to join the EU next May. «It is now up to a decision by Mr Denktash and his people and his friends in Ankara to use this opportunity before May 1.»