NEWS

A week full of meetings over Cyprus

The Turkish Cabinet is to meet today to discuss a package of changes to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan for the reunification of Cyprus. On the island, President Tassos Papadopoulos will chair a meeting of the National Council that will discuss the contents of a letter sent by US President George Bush to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis calling for show of «political will» from all sides for a resumption of the UN-mediated talks aimed at reuniting Cyprus before the island joins the EU on May 1. It emerged on Saturday that Bush had sent a similar letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Papadopoulos has not commented on Bush’s letter, though other Cypriot politicians have criticized it, including Speaker Dimitris Christofias, who described it as a «faux pas» in which the American president discussed Cypriot issues with «third parties.» The Athens News Agency reported from Nicosia yesterday that information on the island said that the US State Department would discuss the problem this week, at a meeting including Assistant Secretary of State Marc Grossman, the US Ambassador to Cyprus Michael Klosson and special envoy Thomas Weston. The meeting is said to be tied to Erdogan’s visit to Washington at the end of this month. The Turkish proposal for changes to the Annan plan, the Greek agency said, includes an increase of Turkish troops on Cyprus from the 6,000 foreseen by the plan to 10,000, no return of Greek-Cypriot refugees to territory under Turkish-Cypriot administration, no return of the town of Morphou to Greek Cypriots and maintenance of the guarantor powers of the 1960 agreement which established Cyprus (which named Greece, Turkey and Britain as guarantors). Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul yesterday said that Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash should not be replaced as his community’s representative in reunification talks, backing him against Turkish-Cypriot critics. «We very much desire Denktash to lead the talks as chief negotiator once the new government is set up because he is the community leader and, as the leader, he should be doing that,» Gul told CNN-Turk television.