NEWS

Post-election Greece faces Cyprus talks

Greece will have to play a leading role in solving the Cyprus issue if the two communities on the island are unable to work out a deal, Foreign Minister Tassos Yiannitsis said yesterday after meeting in Athens with the US State Department’s special coordinator for Cyprus, Thomas Weston. The American official said he had left Cyprus earlier with the impression that things were moving in a positive direction. Greek and Turkish Cypriots, however, remained gloomy. UN political affairs chief Sir Kieran Prendergast arrived on Cyprus late yesterday to assess progress for Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He said his visit was not a sign that the talks were in trouble. «First, you should see it as a signal of the secretary-general’s intensified personal interest in Cyprus,» he said. «Secondly, with talks being conducted on a daily basis it is not possible for (mediator) Alvaro (de Soto) to go to New York.» President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday indicated that their talks, which are aimed at ending Cyprus’s division before it joins the EU on May 1, have a long way to go. «Today’s meeting was not productive at all,» Papadopoulos said. «Mr Denktash has the opportunity to repeat his vision,» he added, referring to the Turkish Cypriot’s wish to keep the two communities separate and gain recognition for his breakaway state. Denktash charged, «If the Annan plan is accepted without change, the Turkish Cypriots will be destroyed.» Yiannitsis, in Athens, stressed that the period between March 8, the day after Greece’s elections, and March 31 will be very important and «will determine the shape and future of Cyprus.» If Papadopoulos and Denktash cannot work out a deal on the basis of Annan’s blueprint for reunification by March 22, Athens and Ankara will be called in to join the talks until March 29. If there is still no deal, Annan will fill in the blanks and call separate referenda on the island. «With its proposals, Greece will have to play a leading role in the final proposals that the secretary-general will present, especially in terms of securing a solution in line with the acquis communautaire,» Yiannitsis said.