NEWS

Turks debate Cyprus in secret session

ANKARA (Combined reports) – The Turkish Parliament evicted journalists so it could hold a rare, closed-door session yesterday to debate Turkey’s Cyprus policy ahead of talks between the rival leaders of the divided island. Foreign Minister Ismail Cem presented the government’s views, followed by spokesmen for all the parties represented in Parliament, the Anatolia news agency reported. Deputies cannot disclose any of the discussions and minutes of the meeting cannot be made public for a decade. The session follows warnings by government ministers that Turkey could pay a high price for its continued support of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state on the north of the island. Turkish leaders have hinted in recent weeks that Turkey could move toward deeper integration with Turkish Cypriots if the European Union admits Cyprus as a member. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has even said that integration could involve Turkish Cypriots voting for annexation with Turkey – a move that would hamper Turkey’s own efforts to join the European Union. The session lasted for four hours. Security officials escorted journalists away from media offices close to the general assembly hall minutes before the session began. Parliament holds closed-door debates only on matters of national security. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides are scheduled to have their first meeting in four years on December 4 to seek ways to reunite the island. Turkish markets, though preoccupied with negotiating a $10-billion crisis loan, watched the Cyprus debate for signals. Whether you like it or not, the closed session on Cyprus is creating tension in the market, said Toygar Sungur of Iktisat Investment. One diplomat closely involved in the Cyprus issue said of the Clerides-Denktash meeting: As always when the possibility of a Cyprus solution is raised -as it is every few years – the cries of ‘sellout’ immediately rise among the nationalists. Those are the cries that will doubtless be vented in the closed session, he said. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer supported Denktash’s creative position in continuing the bicommunal talks, his representative, Tacan Ildem, said yesterday. (AP, Reuters, ANA)