NEWS

Cypriots respond to Denktash

President Tassos Papadopoulos of Cyprus said yesterday that he had sent UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan a written response to Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s proposal for the reopening of Nicosia airport and the Greek-Cypriot town of Varosha, both of which were abandoned after Turkey’s 1974 invasion. Papadopoulos did not reveal the contents of his letter, saying he would wait till Annan received it. But Nicosia’s response is expected to be negative, as Cypriot and Greek officials have said Denktash is trying to avoid the adoption of Annan’s plan for a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue. On Thursday, Denktash said the plan was «unacceptable.» Papadopoulos, speaking at an anti-occupation rally in Eleftherias Square on Thursday (ahead of tomorrow’s anniversary of the Turkish invasion) called for changes to Annan’s plan, to allow for a more «European, viable and workable settlement.» The lengthy time frames set out in the plan for the return of displaced Cypriots need to be amended in the light of the Turkish Cypriots’ easing of restrictions on movement across the Green Line and the island’s EU accession in May. «We remain ready and willing, without conditions and preconditions, to respond to any invitation by the UN secretary-general to resume bicommunal negotiations for an overall settlement of the Cyprus problem, within the framework of the Annan plan, which undoubtedly will have to be amended, taking into consideration the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the EU and the collapse of the myth that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots cannot live together,» he said. US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Thursday: «We have said again and again we think that the Annan plan is the way to move forward on this issue. We have emphasized the need for the parties to get back to talks on that basis. That is the only basis that we have supported for negotiations at this point.» In Athens, PM Costas Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou and aides discussed Greece’s next steps regarding the Cyprus problem. «The framework of our relations with Turkey remains firm,» Papandreou told reporters.