Annan calls Cypriots to New York

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday invited Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to resume talks in New York next Tuesday in a bid to reunify their island in time for its accession to the EU on May 1. According to reliable sources, in his six-page letter, Annan insists on the preconditions he had set in order to resume the talks. These include his filling in the blanks where agreement is not reached, the safeguarding of the basic tenets of his plan and the specifying of a date (April 21) for referenda among the island’s two communities that will be aimed at ratifying the agreement in time for EU accession. Papadopoulos will discuss the invitation with the National Council on Sunday. Athens welcomed it. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said he hoped negotiations would resume and urged compromise. Denktash cast doubt on whether he would be ready for talks next week, saying he needed time to prepare. Denktash has represented the Turkish Cypriots from before Cyprus was divided by a Turkish invasion in 1974. Several efforts to reunify the island have been blocked by his insistence that the breakaway state he leads in northern Cyprus be granted international recognition. Washington welcomed Annan’s invitation to the Cypriot leaders and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher encouraged the two sides to accept it. According to Annan’s timetable, the talks would resume on Feb. 10 in New York and would continue on Cyprus, under the mediation of his representative, Alvaro de Soto, until March 25. After a five-day break, the deal would be finalized on March 30 and the referenda held on April 21. Annan called on the guarantor powers (Greece, Turkey and Britain) to name observers to the talks, while US and EU representatives are also expected to attend. Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis confirmed «our country’s firm support for Mr Annan’s good services,» which, he said, were aimed at «reaching a functional and viable solution, in accordance with UN resolutions and the acquis communautaire.»