NEWS

Turk-Cypriot elections will be ‘decisive’

Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis met in Athens yesterday and signaled to Ankara that its efforts to move closer to the EU would depend on progress on the Cyprus problem. Both cast blame on Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash but also on the Turkish government for the current impasse. «Turkey will use all means at its disposal to achieve what it wants, a date for the start of (EU) accession talks. We are ready to handle issues in a similar way, so as to achieve the best solutions for Greece’s problems, whether a solution for Cyprus’s problem is achieved sooner or whether Turkey chooses to solve the Cyprus issue at the last moment,» Simitis told a joint news conference. He has noted before that Turkey’s bid for a date to start accession talks will be evaluated by the EU in December 2004, which could be a deadline for progress on Cyprus if the island’s accession on May 1 does not spur a resumption of talks on the basis of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal for a solution. Simitis said also that elections in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus, which he termed «constitutionally illegal,» could lead to progress. «This will be decisive for developments,» he said. Turkish-Cypriot opposition parties have agreed to form a coalition if they win the elections and to replace Denktash in the bicommunal negotiations. «Mr Denktash’s intransigence continues. Ankara continues to support him fully. The coming elections in the occupied territory that will take place on Dec. 10 will set the scene for further developments,» Simitis said. But he noted that even if a divided Cyprus joins the EU on May 1, «Cyprus will be able to function without hindrance as a member state of the EU.» Papadopoulos met also with President Costis Stephanopoulos and New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis, who assured him of ND’s full support for «a functional and viable solution for Cyprus.» In Washington, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou met with the State Department’s special coordinator for Cyprus, Thomas Weston, who stressed the US position that negotiations should resume as soon as possible.