‘Great chance’ for Cyprus as talks resume

President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash will resume reunification talks today at Nicosia’s disused airport, in the presence of UN mediator Alvaro de Soto and European Commissioner Guenter Verheugen. The talks, which will start at 10 a.m., are the result of intensive negotiations in New York last week where UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan persuaded both sides to accept his tight schedule for talks so that a united Cyprus can join the EU on May 1. «I think this is a great chance for the people of Cyprus – both peoples of Cyprus – to work hard to come together,» Annan told reporters in New York.«I also appeal to the leaders to really seize the moment and really work in good faith, in a give-and-take spirit, to make it a win-win situation for everybody,» he said. «It is possible. There’s lots of work, but we know the issues. We have ideas what the solution should be. It’s now time to move forward and take the hard decisions necessary to make it happen.» Papadopoulos goes into the talks strengthened by the backing of almost all the parties on the National Council, which have authorized him to make every effort to improve upon the plan presented by Annan, making it more functional. The proposals of the Greek Cypriots are in line with Annan’s plan. But yesterday, statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and Denktash showed that they aim to overturn basic tenets of Annan’s proposal. The Greek Cypriots will seek changes with regard to the executive power, calling for the Presidential Council to consist of nine members (six Greek Cypriots and three Turkish Cypriots) instead of six. With regard to the legislative power, it will call for a court to be set up on the basis of the European Court of Justice; it will call for the number of Turkish settlers remaining on the island to be specified; it wants the constitutions of the two component states to be compatible with the federal one and in line with the EU; it wants adjustments that will make the solution economically viable. The Turkish demands will be based on strengthening the bizonal nature of the federation and minimizing the number of Greek-Cypriot refugees returning to the north; they want acknowledgment that the component states will set aside «part of their sovereignty» for the sake of the federation; they want Turkish troops to remain on the island even after Turkey joins the EU. Denktash said he will discuss with Verheugen how a settlement could have exceptions from EU law. «We will talk to him about derogations and how these can become primary (EU) law,» Denktash said.