NEWS

Cyprus talks hit rock

Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has proposed changes to the UN blueprint for Cyprus’s reunification that stray way outside the framework of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan. This prompted President Tassos Papadopoulos to call for the suspension of yesterday’s talks so the Greek-Cypriot side could formulate its response. Greece accused the Turkish Cypriots of trying to undermine the effort to reunify Cyprus ahead of its EU accession on May 1. In a letter that he presented late on Tuesday night, Denktash called for an ethnically pure state in the island’s north, the presence of a strong Turkish military force and a ban on freedom to move and settle anywhere. He demanded that such an agreement be written into the EU’s acquis communautaire. Foreign diplomats close to the talks expected Denktash to try to overturn the procedure to which Turkish Cypriots had agreed in talks in New York. But they did not expect such a blatant attempt. They are now trying to get the Greek-Cypriot side to stick to the process, which will lead to the second phase in which Greece and Turkey will be called on to find solutions to outstanding issues so that a deal can be put to referenda on both sides of the island. Greek Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis accused Denktash of trying to torpedo the talks. «The systematic effort by the Turkish-Cypriot side to raise once again issues that lead the negotiations away from the Annan plan… and indirectly imply many months of delay, signals a practical rebuttal of what has been agreed and undermines the procedures,» he said. Greek-Cypriot concern is growing, as it was expected that Annan’s envoy, Alvaro de Soto, would have avoided passing Denktash’s letter on, seeing as it was obviously outside the framework of the Annan plan. Nicosia was angered by de Soto’s simply passing on the document without comment. The Greek Cypriots must now decide whether to ignore the document, ask Annan himself to declare it outside the process, reply to it point by point, or reply with a document of their own that will open up issues they had decided to keep closed for the sake of the procedure. Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said the Greek Cypriots will hand over «the appropriate reply» tomorrow.