NEWS

Clerides says meeting with Denktash is on

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said yesterday an end to the Cyprus dispute would depend on Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and his respect for the existence of two separate states on the island. It depends on whether or not Clerides takes a realistic approach or not, Ecevit told Istanbul’s NTV news channel. The existing regime is to the benefit of both communities on Cyprus. If the Greeks and Clerides agree to this, Cyprus can look forward to a very happy future. He also declared that the EU would not sacrifice Turkey if it had to choose between Turkey and Cyprus. Clerides told reporters on Saturday that Denktash had accepted his proposal of a meeting in the first 10 days of December. The two have not held direct negotiations since September 1997 when they took part in UN-brokered talks in Switzerland. Denktash pulled out of the indirect talks in September 2000. He (Denktash) has written to me confirming that he agrees to the presence of a UN representative and that no preconditions will be put on the table, said Clerides. The most likely venue will be the UN’s offices in Nicosia. Clerides said he would send a positive reply to Denktash within 24 hours (by today). In Ankara, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said Turkey sincerely wants a revival of reconciliation talks. But he repeated Turkish warnings to Cyprus about its plan to join the European Union with or without a settlement. EU member countries should be aware that Cyprus’s membership, before a solution on the island, could create problems… for the region’s security, Yilmaz said. Clerides said he had received three letters from Denktash this month. The UN envoy to Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, would attend their talks, Clerides said. Denktash said he wants talks to find a way out of the deadlock, he said. The agreement marks a U-turn on the part of Denktash who rejected a UN invitation to take part in proximity talks in New York in September. In rejecting the September talks, Denktash maintained his line that his breakaway state in northern Cyprus must be recognized and Cyprus should halt its accession negotiations with the European Union. The UN and EU strongly criticized Denktash for refusing the invitation.