NEWS

Greek election will not slow Cyprus peace talks

Nicosia and Ankara expressed confidence yesterday that the change of government in Athens would not have an adverse effect on the ongoing effort for a peace deal on Cyprus, as Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash entered a third week of direct talks. Papadopoulos said he would be meeting Prime Minister-elect Costas Karamanlis as soon as possible, and dismissed claims that the new Greek government will be less conversant with the intricacies of the reunification talks than its predecessor. «Our close relations, both with the outgoing government and with the new government, are for us a satisfying reassurance that our excellent cooperation with the Greek government will continue,» he said. «We are certain that the new government will lend us its full support.» Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who spoke over the phone last week with Karamanlis and PASOK leader George Papandreou, said he would visit Athens after Turkey’s March 28 local elections. «We had positive relations with both the government and the opposition prior to the elections, and I do not think these relations will be affected negatively after the elections,» he said. «God willing, I would like to see the new Greek government and our government finish this business without leaving any blanks in the plan.» Under a deal struck with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, if Papadopoulos and Denktash fail to reach an agreement by March 22, Greece and Turkey will join the talks. In the case that no breakthrough emerges, Annan will «fill in the blanks,» and referenda will be held on his proposals. Yesterday, the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus said the referenda scheduled to be held on April 21 on either side of the ceasefire line will be conducted on April 20, so as not to coincide with the 37th anniversary of the military coup in Athens that ultimately led to the 1974 Turkish invasion.