Cyprus talks stay separate but intensive

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will travel to Switzerland this weekend, joining the prime ministers of Greece and Turkey in a bid to solve the Cyprus issue. Although representatives of the two countries and of the two communities on Cyprus had dinner together on Wednesday and have been holding separate meetings,the UN-mediated talks did not involve joint meetings of all four parties. «The issue of a four-party meeting was judged premature and will be re-examined during the course of the negotiations,» the Greek Foreign Ministry said after foreign ministers Petros Molyviatis and Abdullah Gul met on Wednesday. The talks which began with intensive meetings between Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash on Feb. 19 have stumbled on irreconcilable differences between the two sides. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots demand that the solution exempt Cyprus from EU laws on basic rights such as the freedom of movement of people and capital and the right to buy property. The Cypriot government and Greece, on the other hand, insist that there be no such exception. «Our aim is a solution that is viable and functional and in accordance with the principles of the EU and resolutions of the United Nations,» Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said yesterday at a news conference on the fringes of the EU summit in Brussels. «Permanent deviations (from EU laws) must not be accepted.» He and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will be meeting in Buergenstock on Sunday. Annan’s special envoy, Alvaro de Soto, said yesterday that the proposal which Annan will present will be different. «The text will be changed, it will be a new text,» de Soto told reporters. «What we need here by the end of this month is not a minimal text. That just won’t do the trick. We need a comprehensive settlement that solves everything. This is now closer than in the past 30 years,» he said. Denktash, who is not attending the talks, said EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen was «not a man to be taken seriously» after the commissioner suggested that he no longer represented most Turkish Cypriots.

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