NEWS

Cyprus MPs ratify EU membership

Cyprus’s National Council yesterday authorized President Tassos Papadopoulos to handle personally the issue raised by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s proposal for the opening of Nicosia’s airport and the return of Greek Cypriots to the town of Varosha. On the same day, Parliament unanimously ratified the island’s membership in the European Union. Unless a deal is reached with the Turkish Cypriots, only the Greek Cypriots will enjoy the fruits of EU membership when Cyprus becomes a member on May 1, 2004. The National Council, which brings together the president, senior officials and the leaders of Greek-Cypriot parties, discussed Denktash’s letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in great detail. Nicosia will reply to Annan «very soon,» Undersecretary to the President Christodoulos Pashiardis told reporters after the meeting. He said the council «thoroughly discussed the contents of the letter» and that «there was a complete convergence of assessments.» The Greek-Cypriot leadership believes that Denktash is trying to divert attention from Annan’s plan for a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue with a process of applying confidence-building measures which will upgrade the standing of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot statelet in northern Cyprus and create a situation of two states on Cyprus. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, on a visit to Istanbul, expressed this fear to his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, in two-hour talks yesterday. «I stressed the need that whatever confidence-building measures may take place, we should not lose sight of the need for a comprehensive settlement,» Papandreou told reporters. Gul said, «Both sides must sit down to negotiations to find a lasting solution,» adding that the measures were aimed at creating «a better climate.» In Nicosia, Papadopoulos said the ratification of Cyprus’s EU membership was the most important decision since the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960. House of Representatives speaker Demetris Christofias commented, «Division prevents us from sharing our joy with our Turkish-Cypriot compatriots.»