Pressure for new Cyprus talks

As Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash held talks with party leaders on the formation of a new administration in the Turkish-occupied north, top United Nations and European Union officials yesterday discussed ways of reviving negotiations on reuniting the war-divided island. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and EU defense and foreign policy chief Javier Solana touched on ways to restart the process during a meeting in New York. «We strongly wish to see whether there is a possibility of advancing the issue of Cyprus,» Solana told journalists, and described the secretary-general’s blueprint for reunification as «a very good document.» Cyprus will join the EU in May. Denktash rejected the Annan plan earlier this year, refusing even to use it as a starting-point for negotiations. This has caused increasing impatience among officials in Ankara, who fear that a deadlock on Cyprus will damage Turkey’s EU prospects. In Nicosia yesterday, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said he has written to Annan urging the UN chief to launch a new peace initiative. But Denktash said preliminary talks should be held with Nicosia before any new negotiations start. «We are not shying away from negotiations,» he said. «[But] preliminary, indirect talks are necessary before the negotiations.» Denktash added that, by Monday, he would hand a mandate to one of the Turkish-Cypriot party leaders following the December 14 vote which resulted in a hung assembly. «If the parties display some flexibility, they will be able to form a national or four-way government,» he said. Meanwhile, in a letter made public yesterday, Annan called on Papadopoulos and Denktash to revive talks on the matter of the hundreds of Cypriots still listed as missing after the 1974 Turkish invasion.