NEWS

Final push for Cyprus

Talks aimed at ending Cyprus’s division before the island joins the European Union on May 1 will resume in Nicosia on Thursday, following a breakthrough forced by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York last week. As an indication of the EU’s increased involvement, Annan’s representative, Alvaro de Soto, will meet in Brussels with European Commissioner Guenter Verheugen before flying to Cyprus to mediate in the talks. Verheugen is expected to visit the island. On Friday, President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash gave in to an ultimatum by Annan to accept his terms and timetable for negotiations. Returning to Nicosia on Saturday, Papadopoulos said a successful outcome «will depend primarily on whether the Turkish side has changed its policy on the Cyprus issue, if it strives for a settlement so that a reunified Cyprus can join the EU or if it maintains its old position for division.» He stressed, «Judging from talks in New York, this is not entirely clear and I would like to stress to the Cypriot people that nothing is over yet.» Papadopoulos, like officials in Athens, emphasized the importance of the role that the EU will play. They want a solution to be in line with the acquis communautaire, and expect the EU’s involvement will help achieve this. Greek Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis said that the EU’s involvement and the idea that Annan’s plan for reunification was the basis of the forthcoming talks had been the two sticking points of the New York talks. «The issue of EU involvement, in any form, was where the talks got stuck,» he said in an interview with state radio on Saturday. «This was the last point on which Turkey rejected any compromise formula and, of course, was forced to accept it when it was presented by the secretary-general himself on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis. This was a significant victory of ours.» If Papadopoulos and Denktash do not reach agreement, Greece and Turkey will join the talks. If they too fail, then Annan will fill in the blanks of a deal before the agreement is put to the vote in two separate referenda on the island. «In the end, it is the people who will have the final say,» Yiannitsis said. Yesterday Denktash said, «We believe we can reach a solution if both sides show good will.» The United States and the EU have welcomed the breakthrough in the talks.