NEWS

Denktash resolute

NICOSIA – Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday declared dead a UN plan to unite Cyprus and said the opposition, which favors reviving the plan, had no chance of sidelining him at elections later this year. Time is running out for a solution to unite the ethnically divided island before the European Union next year admits Cyprus – effectively, only the Greek-Cypriot south. Parliamentary elections in northern Cyprus are planned for November or December. Denktash accused the opposition of undermining his position by discussing the UN plan with the Greek-Cypriot government. The Turkish-Cypriot leader opposes UN plans to return to Greek Cypriots land and housing seized when Turkey invaded the island in 1974 in response to a Greek-Cypriot coup backed by the military junta then ruling Greece. «It (the UN plan) is unacceptable. I have said everything I can on the plan, I have nothing new to say and I have nothing new to consider,» Denktash told Reuters in an interview. Blaming Denktash for the March collapse of UN-sponsored peace talks, Brussels and Washington have called on the two sides to return to the negotiating table and use the UN plan as the blueprint to end almost 30 years of division. Turkey, aware that failure to unite Cyprus could damage its own EU membership bid, has also called on Cypriots to revive the peace talks this year but also says it stands behind Denktash. The self-proclaimed Turk-Cypriot state in the north of Cyprus is recognized only by Ankara, which keeps some 30,000 troops there. The rest of the international community view the Greek Cypriots as the only legal authority on the east Mediterranean island. Denktash said he alone had a mandate from Turkish Cypriots to negotiate a peace deal, which he said should be based on confidence-building measures he has recently initiated. Opposition parties, which control 30 percent of the seats in the north’s parliament, were mistaken if they thought they could sideline him by winning a majority in the elections, he added. «About 30 percent of our people support the opposition. They have the same chance, if not less, this time round,» he said. «The opposition is in constant contact with Greek-Cypriot leaders… Are they serving the Turkish-Cypriot community or are they trying to cook up something with the Greek-Cypriot side?» In a symbolic gesture, Turkish-Cypriot authorities in April relaxed restrictions on the movement of people across a ceasefire line dividing Cyprus, where two-thirds of the 750,000 population are Greek Cypriots. Though they welcomed the move, the EU and UN have said that such gestures cannot be a substitute for the swift resumption of talks to secure a comprehensive peace deal in Cyprus.