Greece says Cyprus talks are binding

Just hours after his Cabinet was sworn in, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met with Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and Deputy Minister Yiannis Valinakis to discuss the Cyprus issue. The new government takes office at a critical time, with Greece and Turkey preparing to step in to help solve differences between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. But the foreign minister stressed that there was little room to maneuver, following prior agreement on the framework for a solution. «The Cyprus issue is obviously an immediate priority for us,» Molyviatis said. «I would like to remind you that the course toward a solution is predetermined and agreed upon by all sides. Both the Greek and Turkish sides,» he added. Talks between President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash have appeared fruitless so far. They are aimed at reaching a solution by March 22 so that referenda can be held on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s blueprint for reunification on April 20. Greece and Turkey will step in for a week of talks until March 29, after which Annan will fill in the blanks. Annan’s envoy to Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, is due in Athens today for talks with the new government. Papadopoulos will come on Saturday for talks on Sunday. US Secretary of State Colin Powell has asked to talk with Molyviatis by telephone today. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan telephoned Karamanlis and congratulated him, the Turkish-Cypriot radio station Bayrak reported yesterday. It quoted him as saying Ankara hoped Greece and Turkey would be represented at the highest level in the four-party talks. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said this could involve foreign ministers and then prime ministers. The EU’s commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, yesterday urged Cyprus’s «two communities to seize this quite unique opportunity to show that they are ready for peace and reconciliation in this region.» He acknowledged time was running out for a solution before Cyprus joins the EU on May 1, saying, «It’s a bit late but Mr Denktash is responsible for this delay.»

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