Long road for Cyprus

The obstacles on the road toward solving the Cyprus issue came to the fore yesterday as President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash were involved in a heated exchange during their UN-mediated talks. Denktash told reporters that tensions rose when he asked Papadopoulos to comment on Turkish press reports that the Cypriot government planned to modernize its anti-aircraft missile system. «How can you question me on this when you have 30,000 (Turkish) soldiers on your side,» Denktash quoted Papadopoulos as saying before the Cypriot president left the room. «He left without shaking hands,» Denktash added. Speaking to reporters, Papadopoulos said, «The road will be long and difficult.» In a nod to recent polls that have found a majority of Greek Cypriots opposed to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint for the island’s reunification, Papadopoulos said, «During the negotiations the Greek-Cypriot side must be persuaded as to how possible it may be to achieve the changes to the Annan plan that it considers necessary, so that we may speak of a Cyprus that is reunited, not divided on the basis of ethnic origin.» Denktash said that UN mediator Alvaro de Soto had remarked on the Turkish-Cypriot leader’s rejection of the UN’s call for a news blackout on the talks. Denktash said that Papadopoulos will today present a list of their proposed changes to Annan’s plan. «We would like to see what changes they want so that we can present the changes that we want,» Denktash said. Yesterday he again raised the demand for greater «bizonality» of the reunified state, so as to provide greater «security» to Turkish Cypriots. He also raised the issue of Turkish Cypriots being allowed to represent themselves in foreign affairs, something which goes directly against the Annan plan. And he demanded that Greek Cypriots returning to the Turkish-Cypriot sector should not have voting rights there. Otherwise, he argued, the Upper House will constitute 24 members from each component state but not 24 members from each ethnic group. The Greek Cypriots are also concerned that Turkey’s demand to be given 90 days to ratify a deal following referenda on the island on April 21 would create great problems. As the Republic of Cyprus will be dissolved in accordance with Annan’s plan, Turkey’s reneging on its commitment to back the plan would create huge problems.