Turkey hints at Cyprus land deal

ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkish Cypriots may agree to give up territory in occupied northern Cyprus to facilitate a peace deal with the government in Nicosia, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday. Erdogan’s comments underlined Turkey’s determination to see an end to the 29-year division of Cyprus before the island joins the European Union on May 1, in a bid to salvage Ankara’s own campaign to become a member of the bloc. «(Turkish Cypriots) have said they could take such a step as a gesture of good will… in order to reach a resolution, and this can be done,» Erdogan told reporters here upon his return from a six-day official trip to the United States. «What is important is to achieve a settlement,» he added. Erdogan did not elaborate on how much land Turkish Cypriots would be willing to cede, but he was quoted by the Anatolia news agency late on Saturday as telling reporters in Boston that the portion of land to be given away would be determined in possible peace negotiations. Last week, Turkey asked UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to revive talks on his blueprint for reunification. Talks on the Annan plan, which envisages territorial adjustments in favor of the Greek-Cypriot majority, broke down last March after Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash rejected the UN blueprint. During a meeting in Brussels last week, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos asked Annan to immediately call fresh peace talks. Denktash has also said he is prepared to rejoin talks. Annan, however, said he will only engage in a new search for a settlement on Cyprus if he sees the «necessary political will» from all parties. [Meanwhile, Prime Minister Costas Simitis spoke to Annan on the telephone on Saturday to discuss Cyprus.]