US envoy fails to sway Denktash on Cyprus plan

NICOSIA – A US envoy yesterday failed to persuade veteran Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to endorse a UN blueprint for reunifying Cyprus despite a weekend election that saw success for supporters of the plan. Last Sunday’s general election in the Turkish-Cypriot enclave was effectively a referendum on the United Nations’ plan, which would create a federal Cyprus with broad autonomy for the island’s two ethnic communities, the Greeks and Turks. Supporters and opponents of the plan won 25 seats each in northern Cyprus’s new assembly, but the largest single party is the pro-settlement Republican Turkish Party (CTP). «We had a very thorough discussion – at times a very animated one. I’m pretty sure that neither of us convinced each other of very much,» Thomas Weston, the US envoy to Cyprus, told reporters after meeting with Denktash. Denktash echoed Weston’s comments, adding that the best hope for progress now lay in forming a national coalition government in his enclave of 200,000, which is recognized only by Turkey. The political impasse in the north has raised questions on the timing of any renewed effort to resume peace negotiations, at a standstill since last March. Weston said the logjam should have no effect on the primary goal of resuming negotiations, but warned that time was running out for a May 1 deadline, when Cyprus joins the European Union. Without a deal only the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government will join and will be considered as representing the whole island. «For talks to resume, it is necessary for the necessary political will to be forthcoming from four different parties,» he said, referring to the two sides on Cyprus as well as Greece and Turkey. «We would hope that would be forthcoming immediately but we can’t assure that, obviously,» he told a later news conference, wrapping up two days of talks. Both Denktash and Turkey are under pressure from the United States and the EU to resume peace talks with the Greek-Cypriot side on the basis of the UN blueprint. The lack of a settlement could cement the island’s ethnic division, deepen the Turkish Cypriots’ isolation and harm Turkey’s own hopes of joining the EU. Denktash fears the more numerous and wealthier Greek Cypriots will dominate a reunited Cyprus, and says the UN plan fails to protect his community’s separate identity and rights. Yesterday, he described the plan as «suicide for me.» In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey, financial and military patron of Denktash’s enclave, would shortly unveil new proposals for reunifying the island. The United States and the EU insist there is no alternative to the UN plan for solving the divided island’s problem.