Papadopoulos in Athens talks

Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos arrived in Athens yesterday evening for talks with government officials, as international pressure is mounting for a peace deal on the divided island before its May 1 European Union entry. In comments made during his departure from Larnaca airport, Papadopoulos expressed willingness to engage in United Nations-sponsored talks with the Turkish-Cypriot leadership, whenever UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan sees fit to call for a new round of negotiations. According to an Athens News Agency report from Cyprus, he said Nicosia is not in favor of direct involvement by the United States in the negotiations. Today, Papadopoulos will meet with President Costis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Foreign Minister George Papandreou and opposition party leaders. Meanwhile in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on Saturday accused Nicosia of harboring more objections to the Annan reunification blueprint – rejected 10 months ago by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash – than the Turkish-Cypriots. «If the problem is not resolved due to the intransigence of the other side, then nobody will be able to blame us,» he said. Turkey is under pressure from EU and US officials to persuade Denktash to strike a peace deal before May 1. Brussels has warned Ankara that failure to take such action would augur ill for Turkey’s aspirations of joining the EU in the foreseeable future. During his European tour next week, Annan is due to meet with Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Switzerland. On January 28, Erdogan will visit Washington for talks with US President George W. Bush.

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