NEWS

Denktash will not go

Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos will attend talks aimed at solving the Cyprus issue in Switzerland next week, the National Council of government officials and party leaders decided yesterday. The prime ministers of Greece and Turkey will also join the talks but the Turkish-Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, repeated yesterday that he would not attend. «The Greek-Cypriot side will abide by the commitments it made in New York and expects the Turkish-Cypriot side to do the same, so that it will be in a position to make commitments right away, as the UN secretary-general has requested,» Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said. He was referring to Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s timetable according to which Greece, Turkey and Cyprus’s two communities will hold talks next week. If they do not reach agreement by March 29, Annan will fill in the blanks of a deal and submit his proposal to referenda on Cyprus on April 20. The UN-mediated effort is aimed at having a reunified Cyprus join the EU when the island accedes on May 1. However, recent polls among Greek Cypriots suggest that a majority of them will reject Annan’s blueprint, on the basis of what they know of it now. A randomized telephone poll by the Economarket company conducted on March 15-16 among 582 Geek Cypriot found that 75.8 percent of those polled would vote against the Annan plan if the referendum were held today. Also, 62.5 percent agreed with President Papadopoulos’s handling of the issue. Papadopoulos’s talks with Denktash since Feb. 19 have made no progress. Meanwhile, sources said yesterday that Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had not wanted to commit himself to attending the talks near Lucerne, Switzerland, and had reached agreement on this with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But both prime ministers came under strong pressure by unnamed «international powers» and, following receipt of a letter from Annan and Erdogan’s public statement that he would go to Switzerland, Karamanlis agreed to attend the talks on Sunday, March 28. The round of negotiations will begin on March 24. «I will be the happiest of all if they are able to achieve with Turkey’s help what I wasn’t able to achieve,» Denktash said yesterday.