NEWS

Turk-Cypriot parties refuse call for talks

Foreign Minister George Papandreou begins a two-day visit to Cyprus today for talks with President Tassos Papadopoulos ahead of the Cypriot leader’s visit to Athens next Tuesday. Papandreou will meet with Greek-Cypriot party leaders but Turkish-Cypriot political parties have turned down his invitation for talks, Foreign Ministry spokesman Panayiotis Beglitis said yesterday. The US State Department’s special coordinator for Cyprus, Thomas Weston, said that a victory by parties opposed to Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in elections in the island’s Turkish-occupied north in December would boost efforts to reunite Cyprus on the basis of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan. Weston noted that three parties which support Annan’s plan have formed a coalition to defeat those that support Denktash, who opposes the plan. «It is very hard for me to escape the conclusion that if they (the opposition) were indeed to be successful in the elections, there would be a far greater chance of recommencing negotiations on the Annan plan and getting a settlement before May 1 (2004),» Weston told Reuters in Rome. At a news conference, he also warned Denktash against any effort to manipulate the vote. «We would be concerned about anything unfair or undemocratic,» he said. Beglitis, in Athens, said the Turkish-Cypriot parties had turned down Papandreou’s invitation for talks. «We believed that this would be the appropriate time for an opportunity for an exchange of opinions on the Cyprus issue. We considered it completely natural to have an exchange of opinions, but it depends on the discretion of the Turkish-Cypriot parties whether these meetings will take place. We wanted to hear their concerns and and thoughts, as they had initially expressed support for the Annan Plan,» Beglitis said. He said Athens would look favorably on a new initiative by Annan, but added that conditions were not ripe. «The way things are going in Cyprus, because of Denktash’s continuing intransigence, conditions are not right for an immediate resumption of talks,» he said. Beglitis said Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul is to visit Greece in October.