NEWS

Turks focus on Cyprus as May 1 nears

Turkish officials have become increasingly active in dealing with the Cyprus issue, as pressure mounts on them to help solve the problem of the island’s division by May 1, when Cyprus will join the European Union. US State Department coordinator for the Cyprus issue Thomas Weston was in Ankara yesterday to be briefed on what he called the many meetings that will be held on the Cyprus issue. Turkey’s influential National Security Council is to discuss Cyprus policy tomorrow. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to meet with President George W. Bush in Washington next Wednesday and Cyprus will be high on the agenda. Erdogan will meet with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, at the Swiss resort of Davos, this Saturday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. On Sunday, Erdogan will hold talks with Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and then leave for the United States. Annan, on a visit to Germany, said yesterday that he would resume talks on Cyprus’s reunification if the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots were ready to reach a deal. «My good offices are still available, provided the parties show their readiness and their will to go forward and settle their differences,» he said after meeting with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. Cyprus was among the issues they discussed. Fischer later began a two-day visit to Turkey and held talks with his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, before a meeting with Erdogan scheduled for today. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is expected to visit Turkey on February 23. Romano Prodi last week became the first European Commission president to visit Turkey, where he urged officials to implement reforms and to help solve the Cyprus issue. Germany has supported Turkey’s aspirations to start accession talks with the EU, something that EU officials say depends on Ankara helping solve the Cyprus issue. Fischer told Stern magazine that Turkey’s membership was one the most important strategic decisions facing the EU this century. «If we shut the door in Turkey’s face we will pay a heavy price,» he said. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, in turn, visited Athens on Monday.