Cypriots go to New York at UN’s call

Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos will consult with Prime Minister Costas Simitis in Athens today before leaving for New York, where UN-mediated talks aimed at reunifying Cyprus are to resume tomorrow. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash left Istanbul last night, after pressure from the Turkish government, which says it wants to see a solution to the problem before Cyprus joins the EU on May 1. EU officials have said that helping Cyprus would help Turkey’s own bid for the start of accession talks. Leaving Cyprus for Athens yesterday, Papadopoulos stressed, «Our target still is the achievement of a solution by May 1.» He will leave for New York on a private plane today after his talks with Simitis. Denktash will be accompanied by Mehmet Ali Talat – who recently became «prime minister» of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state and who has appeared more keen than Denktash to work toward a solution – Denktash’s son Serdar, who leads a party in Talat’s coalition, and other aides. Turkey’s deputy foreign minister, Ugur Ziyal, will also attend the talks. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan invited Papadopoulos and Denktash to New York last week, calling for a resumption of the talks after months of saying that he first wanted to see the necessary political will. Nicosia and Athens had said they were ready to negotiate but Denktash had charged that Annan’s plan for a loose federation was «dead.» Papadopoulos chaired a meeting of Cyprus’s National Council, which brings together top government officials and party leaders, on Saturday. The council gave him authority to go to New York to negotiate. Nothing else was made public after the meeting. Turkish officials had asked Annan to replace his mediator, Alvaro de Soto, but it is de Soto who will be mediating in the talks tomorrow and Wednesday, and when they continue in Cyprus from February 16. Annan wants to see the two sides reach agreement by the end of March so that referendums can be held by the two communities on April 21, in time for a reunited Cyprus to join the EU on May 1.