NEWS

‘Optimistic signals’ on Cyprus

Turkey indicated yesterday that it would invite United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to restart stalled peace talks on Cyprus as Annan spoke of «optimistic signals from both sides.» In an interview to be published today in the German newspaper Stuttgarter Zeitung, Annan pointed out that his efforts last year failed to get both sides back to the negotiating table, to thrash out a deal on the basis of a UN blueprint. «We failed back then,» he said. «Now, I am hearing optimistic signals from both sides. As United Nations secretary-general, I am happy to help moderate.» Nearly 30 years after the Turkish invasion, the reunification of Cyprus has taken on an unusual urgency as the island is to enter the European Union on May 1. The EU, Greece, Turkey, Nicosia and the Turkish Cypriots have all expressed a desire to have a peace deal by then, although this has been held back by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s insistence that the Annan plan should not serve as a basis for negotiations. Ankara has come under intense pressure from Brussels to help bring the Turkish Cypriots back to the negotiating table, with EU officials threatening that failure to do so will augur ill for Turkey’s prospects of EU accession. Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Annan in Davos tomorrow. Turkey’s Radikal daily yesterday quoted Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as saying that, at the meeting, «We will explain the position we have reached on the problem and ask [Annan] to relaunch negotiations.» «We are saying, ‘Let’s work on the Annan plan’,» he said. «There is very little time left for a solution.» Yesterday, Denktash complained that «some people are trying to corner Turkey, which wants to enter the EU, and bring it to the position where it cannot defend Cyprus.»