NEWS

Greek side ready for Cyprus talks

President Tassos Papadopoulos of Cyprus and Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday discussed developments in the Cyprus issue and reaffirmed that their countries were ready for a resumption of UN talks aimed at reunifying the island before it joins the EU on May 1. «Greece and the Republic of Cyprus confirmed, once again, that they consider the UN process decisive. It is our common aim to solve the Cyprus issue as soon as possible. Our aim is always for a solution to be just, viable and functional, to follow UN resolutions and the (EU’s) acquis communautaire,» Simitis told a joint news conference after the 90-minute talks in Athens. «Greece and the Republic of Cyprus are ready for the resumption of negotiations on the basis of the UN secretary-general’s current plan. I want to stress that the key to solving the Cyprus problem remains in Ankara’s hands,» Simitis said. He noted that Turkey’s bid to open EU accession talks hinged on its helping to reunite Cyprus. Simitis rejected a demand by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to hold referenda on his plan irrespective of the result of negotiations. Meanwhile, a senior Turkish military officer rejected any compromise on Cyprus by his country, issuing a direct warning to the government in Ankara. «Some people in Turkey believe we should make concessions to get rid of problems. This country has always given birth to wonderful people, but lately it has begun to breed traitors,» said Hursit Tolon, commander of the Fourth Army Corps. Greece’s opposition leader, Costas Karamanlis, is to start a two-day visit to Cyprus today, where he will meet with government and opposition officials. In the meantime, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul yesterday responded positively to Foreign Minister George Papandreou’s proposal on Saturday for a «gradual and balanced» reduction in arms spending by Greece and Turkey. «It is a good wish. We have the same wish,» Gul told Athens’s Mega Channel. He noted that Ankara had already decided to cut military spending and that it had signed 11 confidence-building measures with Greece as well as a deal to remove land mines.