NEWS

Big Cyprus push in 2002

As international efforts to help solve the Cyprus problem continue, and with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash due to meet in Nicosia next week, Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis held talks yesterday with Lord Hannay, the British envoy on Cyprus, and George Vassiliou, the island republic’s negotiator for Cyprus’s EU accession. Hannay is to visit Ankara today for talks with the Turkish leadership. On Sunday, however, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit repeated a statement he has been making with increasing frequency, saying, there is no difference between sacrificing (the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus) and sacrificing a part of Turkish soil. He also said A solution to the Cyprus issue that will arise from the demands of the Greek Cypriots and the EU will lead to the genocide of the Turkish Cypriots. British diplomatic sources said that a major diplomatic effort should be expected next year to resolve the Cyprus problem, given that the European Union will decided on the accession of new countries at the Copenhagen summit in December 2002. The same sources noted that all parties involved would benefit from the EU accession of a united Cyprus, even though a solution was not a prerequisite for this. The sources also stressed that the Bush administration has been playing a key role in pressing for a solution and has shown that it is keenly involved in the process despite the fact that the greatest part of its attention is going to the war against international terrorism. Western officials are also seeing the face-to-face talks between Clerides and Denktash next Tuesday (the first such direct contact in four years) as a positive development. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, is to be present at the meeting. Denktash walked out of UN-mediated indirect proximity talks in September 2000, demanding recognition for the breakaway state he leads in northern Cyprus. The British sources said that if Denktash’s proposal for talks is a move toward holding substantive negotiations this will be positive, as opposed to his simply pressing once again for recognition before he returns to the UN-mediated negotiations. The sources also agree with the Greek government’s estimate that the Cyprus issue is crucial in Turkey’s relations with the European Union. Commenting on Ecevit’s statements, Foreign Ministry spokesman Panayiotis Beglitis said yesterday, We expect such statements and we expect more in the near future.