NEWS

Land issues at heart of Cyprus talks

President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday discussed the status of territory that Turkish Cypriots will return to the Greek-Cypriot sector under UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint for the island’s reunification. Again the two blamed each other for ongoing disagreement. Late on Tuesday, Denktash said he would urge his people to vote against the plan in the April referendum so a reunited Cyprus can join the EU on May 1. «If the desired revisions are not made to the plan, I will ask my people to reject it,» he told the Turkish-Cypriot Bayrak television channel. «I am surprised at people who say this issue will be finished on May 1,» he said. Papadopoulos, however, stressed that May 1 was still the target date for a settlement. But he pointed out the deadlock that had arisen because Denktash kept reverting to his demand for two loosely linked states on Cyprus and a reduced number of Greek-Cypriot refugees returning to the north. Papadopoulos has rejected these demands, stressing that they are outside of the framework of Annan’s plan. Denktash described this as the Greek Cypriots’ «shying away from negotiations.» Yesterday the two men discussed the situation that will apply in the territory that the Turkish Cypriots are to hand over to Greek Cypriots. Annan’s plan calls for a gradual return over between 104 days and three years, but Denktash wants this to be stretched from a year to eight years and eight-and-a-half months. Papadopoulos said also he wants all laws and international treaties necessary for the functioning of the state to be ratified and to be part of the deal that will be put to referenda on both sides of Cyprus. Turkish officials have said their parliament will ratify any agreement in three months. UN political affairs chief Sir Kieran Prendergast attended yesterday’s talks. He will brief Annan in New York tomorrow. Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was quoted by CNN Turk news channel as saying Greek Cypriots would only represent the southern part of Cyprus if they say «no» in the referendum. The EU has said the whole of Cyprus has joined the EU but that the acquis communautaire will not apply in the north before a settlement.