NEWS

Turk PM says Annan plan a ‘reference’

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is to meet with President George W. Bush in Washington today, yesterday referred to the UN blueprint for Cyprus’s reunification as a «reference point» and not the basis for negotiations. Keeping up the diplomatic offensive, Turkey’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, said Ankara was now in favor of Cypriots holding a referendum on the basic principles of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan, adding that the thorny outstanding issues could be dealt with later. Both Turkey and Greece had said earlier that negotiations on the Annan plan should be held before referenda are held by Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. In recent days, Ankara, while stressing that it wants the Cyprus issue to be solved before the island joins the EU on May 1, has also called on Annan to replace his special mediator in the stalled negotiations, Peruvian diplomat Alvaro de Soto. Greece has said that this would delay efforts to find a solution by at least several months. Sources close to the Turkish government told the Agence France-Presse yesterday that Ankara would like the United States to mediate in the reunification talks. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, speaking in Brussels, stressed yesterday that Turkey had taken a step backward. «If there really is the political will in Turkey for a solution to the Cyprus issue we will welcome it,» he said. Regarding the Turkish National Security Council’s talk of the need to recognize the «realities of the island,» which the Greeks and Cypriots see as shorthand for the recognition of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state, Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou said yesterday that Nicosia rejected any negotiations outside of the Annan plan’s framework. «We are not prepared to accept any change or the addition of other elements to the procedure for solving the Cyprus issue, because this would make things more difficult. He said that Papadopoulos would like a meeting with Annan, but that it was not certain that this would take place.