A confidence trick?

Cyprus’s National Council, which brings together the president, other top officials and political party leaders, will meet in Nicosia today to discuss a proposal by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for a series of confidence-building measures. Comments by Cypriot officials over the weekend, however, indicated skepticism with regard to Denktash’s proposal for the reopening of Nicosia’s old airport and of the town of Varosha, both under UN administration. These confidence-building proposals were part of a package proposed in 1993-94 by then-UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, but Denktash rejected the overall plan then as he has rejected the plan for a comprehensive solution proposed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. «Rauf Denktash is offering us warmed-up leftovers,» commented Social Democrat EDEK leader Yiannakis Omirou. Government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides, on a visit to London, said Denktash was trying to distract public opinion away from the essence of the Cyprus issue. President Tassos Papadopoulos returned to Cyprus yesterday after a visit to the United States, where he underwent medical tests and met with the State Department’s special coordinator for Cyprus, Thomas Weston. Papadopoulos said that international observers also believed Denktash was trying to create a diversion from the main issue of Cyprus. Papadopoulos stressed that the National Council would give its reply today. In a statement on Friday, immediately after Denktash’s proposals were made public in a letter to Annan, he said the council will «study and decide on the general issues raised by Mr Denktash’s letter and, specifically, the proposal for the reopening of Nicosia airport.» The airport has been closed since the Turkish invasion, which began on July 20, 1974, following a coup by Greek Cypriots on July 15. Memorial services were held on the island yesterday to commemorate those who died during the coup, and a protest rally against the Turkish invasion and occupation is scheduled for Thursday. Foreign Minister George Iacovou on Saturday confirmed that Annan was trying to restart talks on his plan in the fall. He said Papadopoulos would meet with Annan during the UN General Assembly meeting and he predicted Denktash would also be invited.

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