Gray skies for Greek Cypriots following rejection of UN deal

NICOSIA – Greek Cypriots woke up to gray diplomatic skies yesterday after foreign powers strongly criticized their rejection of a UN plan to reunify their island, while Turkish Cypriots basked in praise for saying «yes.» Almost 65 percent of voters in the breakaway Turkish-held north backed the deal to unite Cyprus in time for EU membership on May 1, but hopes of peace were buried by a 75 percent «no» in the internationally recognized south, in referenda on Saturday. Greek-Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos fended off fears the south will pay a heavy price for disappointing the world. He doubted that Greek Cypriots would be punished for exercising their «legitimate, democratic right» in voting on the plan and appealed to foreign media to present the Greek-Cypriot «side of the story,» rather than stick to the idea that «these are the bad guys, freeze them out.» But the sun was radiant in the north, as Turkey went on the diplomatic offensive, seeking a new deal for Turkish Cypriots. Ankara immediately began lobbying for international support for the 200,000-strong minority as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was convinced «the policy of isolating the Turkish Cypriots will end.» Turkish-Cypriot dailies urged the world to scrap longstanding sanctions. The European Commission quickly hinted on Saturday that such economic manna was a distinct possibility, in a bid to dig the depressed north out of financial mire and international isolation. Exactly what support Brussels can give them will be hammered out in the coming days – starting at today’s foreign minister talks in Luxembourg. One source confirmed the European Union could consider using some or all of 260 million euros (310 million dollars) which had been earmarked for the Turkish part of Cyprus if a peace deal had been secured. But any EU moves in favor of northern Cyprus might have to be taken fast as the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus could veto any such help after it joins the club next Saturday, observers said. Papadopoulos told reporters he could never accept recognition of the statelet. He added that embargoes were legal decisions and upheld not just by EU states but international groups outside the remit of Brussels. Certainly there is no denying the anger and disappointment in the European Union, the United States and the United Nations, which sank enormous time and money into efforts to clinch a last-minute deal to the lingering conflict. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he «deeply» regretted the Greek-Cypriot choice. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan also regretted that Turkish Cypriots will be left out of the EU club. The United States expressed disappointment at the Greek-Cypriot vote and praised the Turkish Cypriots for their «courage.» But Greece tried to play down the impact of the Greek-Cypriot rejection. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has said that Cyprus should not be allowed to affect either Turkey’s bid to join the EU or relations between Greece and Turkey, amid analysts’ fears of a wider regional fallout.

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