NEWS

Focus on Green Line

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is to begin a three-day visit to Greece on Thursday, will pay a brief visit to the province of Thrace, where most of Greece’s Muslim minority lives. Diplomatic sources in Athens said this was a sign of the mutual trust between Greece and Turkey. Claims of discrimination in the past often soured relations. As Turkish Cypriots will not be joining the EU with the rest of Cyprus tomorrow, following Greek Cypriots’ rejection of the UN’s reunification plan, the EU yesterday announced a series of measures easing restrictions on trade across the Green Line. Also, the Commission approved 259 million euros in aid for Turkish Cypriots. In eight weeks, the Commission will present a series of measures aimed at increasing the number of goods to be allowed across the Green Line and how direct exchanges between the breakaway state and the EU will be achieved. EU officials stress they do not want this to be seen as recognition of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state. Agence France-Presse quoted unnamed US officials in Washington as saying on Wednesday that they may offer de facto recognition of the Turkish-Cypriot state to reward them for accepting the UN plan. Also, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said yesterday that Turkey would not withdraw its troops from northern Cyprus. «If the plan had been accepted, this would have happened,» he told Turkey’s NTV channel. Paying a farewell call to Ankara yesterday, UN mediator Alvaro de Soto welcomed the EU measures but warned: «Recognition is a completely different matter. It would cause the (lasting) partition of the island.» Mehmet Ali Talat, who leads the Turkish-Cypriot administration, brushed aside the possibility of new negotiations on the UN plan. «This amounts to making fun of the world, making fun of the UN and looking down on Turkish Cypriots,» he said in Ankara. Erdogan will be accompanied by Greek officials when he visits Thrace. «We have nothing to hide. On the contrary, we show off our achievements,» government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said. «Mr Erdogan has the right to meet with people of the same faith and this confirms the maturity of Greece’s democracy, which deals with such issues without fear, anxiety and insecurity. Our democracy is a paragon of an open society with equality before the law and respect for human rights,» he said.