Cypriots meet as pressure builds

Under increasing international pressure for a new round of peace talks on Cyprus, Cypriot political leaders met in Nicosia yesterday to discuss the latest developments, including a new missive from US President George Bush to President Tassos Papadopoulos. Government spokesman Kypros Chryssostomidis would divulge no details on the three-hour National Council meeting under Papadopoulos, who discussed the prospect of new talks last week with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and European Commission President Romano Prodi. Later yesterday, Papadopoulos confirmed he had received a new letter from Bush, which he described as «most polite and constructive.» Reports in the Turkish and Cypriot press claimed Bush was leaning on Nicosia to follow Turkey’s «sincere efforts» to restart negotiations, in order to achieve a deal before Cyprus joins the EU on May 1. Cyprus is expected to be on Bush’s agenda today, during a meeting in Washington with Annan that will focus on the possible dispatch of a UN team to occupied Iraq. Also present at the meeting will be US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who last Thursday offered his «good offices» on Cyprus, but not as a mediator – which Ankara reportedly wants. Yesterday, Foreign Minister George Papandreou discussed Cyprus over the phone with Annan. According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis, Papandreou said both parties should reach an agreement on «substantial issues» before there is any question of Annan filling in the blanks on secondary matters. Meanwhile, reports from occupied northern Cyprus quoted Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan as denying that he said the Turkish Cypriots might offer land for peace.