Next steps for Cyprus sought

President Tassos Papadopoulos of Cyprus arrived in Athens yesterday for talks with the Greek government on a common strategy to deal with the Cyprus issue after Greek Cypriots voted overwhelmingly last Saturday against a UN proposal for their island’s reunification. The European Union moved to open a mission in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus in order to coordinate aid for Turkish Cypriots, who voted in favor of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s reunification plan. Papadopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will meet this morning. On Saturday, Cyprus will join the European Union but only Greek Cypriots will enjoy the benefits. «We want a bizonal, bicommunal federation that is functional and viable, and to reunite our homeland,» Papadopoulos said on his arrival in Athens. He and Karamanlis will discuss Nicosia’s diplomatic targets and the initiatives that will be taken so as to persuade the international community that the Greek-Cypriots’ overwhelming «no» on Saturday did not mean that they did not want a solution to the Cyprus issue as soon as possible. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos denied rumors that Athens might be planning to play a more decisive role in Cyprus’s strategy, moving away from the dogma of «Cyprus decides and Greece stands by it.» The EU and the United States have said that they will do all they can to ease the lot of Turkish Cypriots and the EU has already decided to provide 259 million euros in aid. Yesterday, Guenter Verheugen, the commissioner in charge of enlargement, said the European Commission intends to set up a mission in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus to coordinate this aid. Today, the EU is to decide on the rules that will apply at the de facto dividing line on Cyprus. «We are trying to look for ways and means so that the Green Line is not a separating line… So that one can cross it easily,» Verheugen said. «We absolutely must open a representation in the north of the island,» he told a joint meeting of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and the EU-Cyprus Committee. He stressed that this would not imply recognition of the breakaway state that is recognized only by Ankara. «Cooperation with an authority which runs a territory does not mean diplomatic recognition,» Verheugen said. The commissioner, who has accused Papadopoulos of «cheating» him by not accepting the Annan plan, yesterday turned his attention to the Church of Cyprus. He noted that some leading clerics had made «racist» comments and others that he «did not choose to repeat.» Mehmet Ali Talat, who heads the Turkish-Cypriot administration, was at the meeting and he stressed that the Turkish Cypriots could not accept EU aid via the Greek Cypriots. He also noted that a lifting of the embargo on his people should not be seen as a solution, adding that Turkish Cypriots «do not abandon the vision of a reunited Cyprus.» German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder assured Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of support for its bid to start accession talks with the EU. Turkey’s top soldier, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, said Turkey had gained a «diplomatic advantage» without the cost of adopting the Annan plan. Also, Papadopoulos angrily rejected US charges of intimidation and blackmail by having helped sway Greek Cypriots to reject the Annan plan.

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