Backroom bargaining ahead of Cyprus talks

Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash were to meet with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan late last night in a last-ditch effort to reunify Cyprus ahead of the island’s accession to the EU on May 1. There was intense backroom bargaining in the hours before the meeting and Denktash appeared to come under unprecedented pressure from the Turkish government, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying he had given Denktash a road map and that Denktash’s «loyalty» would be tested with regard to how well he followed it. Annan was to hold brief separate talks with Papadopoulos and Denktash before joint talks with the two delegations. He rescheduled the time of the first meeting from 4.30 p.m. (Greek time) to 10 p.m., saying he wanted to give some of those who had arrived in New York on Monday night some time to rest. «What we hope to establish in the meeting… is the commitment of the two parties to reach an agreement,» UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said. «If that commitment is forthcoming, the assumption is that detailed technical talks would resume as soon as possible, involving both sides.» Annan has said he wants to complete negotiations by the end of March and put a peace deal to referenda on the island’s two sides on April 21. On Monday, the Security Council voted unanimously that it supported Annan’s efforts.