Cyprus talks go on despite obstacles

President Tassos Papadopoulos yesterday presented a written response to a series of proposals by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash that Greek Cypriots claim undermine the basis of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s framework for Cyprus’s reunification. But Papadopoulos stressed that his side would stick with the negotiations, which are aimed at ending Cyprus’s division before it joins the EU on May 1. «I have not heard anyone propose that we leave the negotiations. We will continue the negotiations,» Papadopoulos said. Speaking after the fourth meeting in the current round of talks, during which he gave his response to UN mediator Alvaro de Soto, Papadopoulos said that he was obliged to respond to Denktash’s points «without this implying that we accept them as issues for discussion.» He repeated that Denktash’s proposals were outside the framework of Annan’s blueprint. «Issues were raised that were unacceptable to us,» Papadopoulos said. «This attempt by Mr Denktash must be considered an effort to erode and downgrade the process into an exchange of extreme positions that does not allow us to achieve the changes we want.» Papadopoulos did not reveal the contents of his response. In comments after yesterday’s meeting, Denktash repeated that he would stick to his positions, claiming that «these are not outside the Annan plan’s framework.» These include the demand that Cyprus renegotiate its EU membership and delay accession for at least two years while the accession treaty is ratified. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday expressed concern that the March 7 elections in Greece could affect the Cyprus talks. «One of the issues that could affect the Cyprus process negatively is the elections that will take place in Greece,» he told Turkey’s NTV channel. «There is a very favorable improvement in our ties with Greece,» he noted. «In the past, no one would have believed such a development.» Without giving details he said progress had been made in settling differences in the Aegean.