NEWS

Cypriot seesaw in NY

The future of negotiations aimed at reuniting Cyprus hung in the balance last night, as United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan waited to see whether President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash would agree to his condition that his blueprint was the basis for a solution. Meanwhile, United States and British officials put pressure on Athens and Ankara to agree to the demands that Annan had made in his first meeting with the two on Tuesday. Talks were to resume yesterday, at 11 p.m. Greek time. According to sources, in their first meeting, Papadopoulos told Annan that negotiations should resume and that only if they made progress should referenda be held among Cyprus’s two communities – not irrespective of progress, as Annan demands, nor necessarily on April 21. The UN secretary-general is pushing to have the island reunified by May 1, when it joins the European Union. Papadopoulos said also that he could agree to Annan’s filling in some blanks in the agreement if basic differences had first been settled. Denktash agreed with Papadopoulos’s position. Annan tried to break the deadlock by getting US and British officials, as well as the Greek and Turkish representatives at the talks, to use their influence to push for a solution. In Athens, US Ambassador Thomas Miller and British Ambassador Sir David Madden met separately with Alternate Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis. Prime Minister Costas Simitis held a meeting with Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Yiannitsis. «We are following developments closely,» Papandreou said. «It is a very important moment, we are in close contact with the Cypriot government and President Papadopoulos, to whom we offer our unstinting support.» In Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has pushed Denktash to work for a solution, criticized opposition accusations that he was selling out the Turkish Cypriots. «If you have an idea to contribute to the resolution of Turkey’s problems, please say so, so we can benefit from it. But if not, then do not muddy the waters for your own political interests,» Erdogan said. Annan’s envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, said Tuesday’s talks were «a constructive discussion.» He added, «We hope that after a night and morning of reflection that we will come close.» UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said Annan had asked Britain, Greece and Turkey to put «pressure on the parties to negotiate seriously their differences and come to agreement that can be put to a referendum, to simultaneous referenda, on the two sides of the island.»