Cypriots tug and talk

Crucial talks aimed at solving the Cyprus issue before the island joins the European Union on May 1 resumed in Nicosia yesterday under UN mediation. The EU’s commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, was there to stress the Union’s interest in the outcome. The talks began at 10 a.m., in the shadow cast by an explosion at the house of Mehmet Ali Talat, the «prime minister» of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state. No one was hurt in the blast, which damaged Talat’s house in Kerynia. «They are trying to obstruct communal peace on Cyprus,» said Talat, who was at home at the time. The United States, Britain, the European Union and politicians on both sides of Cyprus condemned the attack. Although UN mediator Alvaro de Soto said the talks had gone well, President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash appeared to be approaching from different directions, with regard to how close to stick to Annan’s blueprint and also come into line with EU basic laws. «It was a very constructive session with ample good will and a business-like spirit from the two sides,» de Soto said. Papadopoulos, however, noted that most issues raised by Denktash conflicted with Annan’s proposal. «My opinion is that most of them on the core issues fall short of the framework of the plan,» he said. Denktash said he had asked for a reduction in the number of Greek Cypriots allowed to return to the north, a rapid resolution of property issues and a continuation of Turkey’s guarantorship of the island. He charged that Papadopoulos wanted only minor changes. «What we saw in today’s talks is that the Greek-Cypriot side is relaxed,» he told reporters. «We feel that they, as an EU member, just want to take us in,» he added. «The Cyprus question cannot be taken care of with such an attitude.» Verheugen met with Papadopoulos, Denktash and de Soto. «We want a united Cyprus to join the EU and what we want to do is to help the Turkish Cypriots start a catch-up process,» he said. The Church of Cyprus’s Holy Synod, in a meeting more than five hours long, expressed backing for Papadopoulos in the talks. Only Bishop Pavlos of Kerynia refused to sign a joint statement, saying he would call on the people to reject the deal in a referendum.