Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday reluctantly accepted an invitation from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for new peace talks next week. Meanwhile, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos is to visit Athens for consultations on Monday, on the eve of the New York talks. Both sides are under intense pressure to thrash out an agreement ending the island’s 29-year partition before Cyprus enters the European Union on May 1. What neither find easy to stomach is Annan’s insistence that both Nicosia and the Turkish-Cypriots should agree in advance to give him carte blanche to «fill in the blanks» where no bilateral agreement can be achieved. In letters made public yesterday, Annan said he would «only do this with the greatest of reluctance.» Yesterday, Denktash bewailed what he described as an imposition of a date for new talks, and signaled that he would not necessarily go all the way with Annan. «We did not decide on this date, they are putting our feet in one shoe,» he told journalists in Ankara, where he held talks with the Turkish government. «This is cruel… it should not happen.» «We’re going to a one-day meeting in New York,» he added. «This does not mean that negotiations will have begun. This is a preliminary meeting that will determine whether or not negotiations can begin.» Papadopoulos has signaled that he will go to New York, although this is expected to be officially confirmed during today’s session of the National Council of party leaders. In Brussels, EU Commissioner for Expansion Guenter Verheugen voiced optimism over the New York talks. «My view is that the resumption of talks means that both parties have basically already agreed that there will be a settlement,» he said.