Turkish signs of softening over Cyprus?

Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday appeared guardedly optimistic over recent developments in Turkey, in which Ankara appears to be re-examining its intransigence over Cyprus. This followed an announcement on Tuesday by Turkey’s military-dominated National Security Council, which used milder language than before regarding a possible solution to Cyprus. Papandreou, speaking at a Foreign Press Association luncheon, did not evaluate this development directly but referred to the generally good climate which he said currently exists in relations between Athens and Ankara. Papandreou noted that Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership had created great challenges and obligations, including helping solve the Cyprus issue, and he also noted a completely different climate between the people of Greece and Turkey as well as the international community’s need for regional stabilization. We have a very important coincidence of events, Papandreou said. But there must also be a political will for solving the Cyprus issue and it will be difficult for me to make any predictions. I too have seen the statement by the Turkish general staff, but I think we should evaluate it in the light of specific events, such as the effort that President (Glafcos) Clerides and (Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf) Denktash and (UN envoy Alvaro) de Soto will make in Nicosia in a few days’ time, he said, referring to the face-to-face meeting the two Cypriot leaders will have on December 4. On Tuesday the Turkish National Security Council, which takes major policy decisions, dropped the mention of two states on Cyprus, declaring for the first time that it was in favor of a solution that is mutually acceptable. The two sides differ mainly in that Denktash and Ankara demand international recognition for the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus and a confederal solution. The Cypriot government wants a federal solution. The Turkish newspaper Radikal said Ankara had drawn up a set of talking points whereby Cyprus’s accession to the EU will lead to the island’s permanent division; Turkish-EU relations must not be linked to the Cyprus issue; Turkey cannot allow any other country to use Cyprus for its strategic purposes; and Turkey supports Denktash. Greece will ratify an international convention on jurisdiction and foreign judgments signed in Basel, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said yesterday after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Justice Minister Filippos Petsalnikos to discuss compensation bids by Greek citizens against the German State for World War II atrocities. If Parliament does ratify the convention, which is seen as crucial to the standing of such cases, it will not apply retroactively.

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