NEWS

Concern as US to aid Turk Cypriots

The news that Washington is planning measures to help the Turkish Cypriots break out of their isolation and to upgrade US relations with their breakaway state have provoked concern in Athens and Nicosia. At the same time, they are waiting for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s report to the Security Council, which has already been written by his special envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, and is said to include criticism of Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos. «We are watching developments,» a Greek government source said. «The issue is that any actions should not constitute an obstacle to the efforts being made to keep open the road for a solution to the Cyprus problem. The measures must not lead to the total suspension of such efforts,» the source said, noting that Athens had received no official word on the issue. In a significant development, the US State Department said yesterday that it considered Mehmet Ali Talat and not Rauf Denktash the leader of the Turkish Cypriots. Talat, «prime minister» of the breakaway state, met with Secretary of State Colin Powell earlier this month. «Secretary Powell has met with Mr Mehmet Ali Talat in his capacity as leader of the Turkish-Cypriot community,» the department said in a statement. «Our position is that he is the leader of the Turkish Cypriots.» Papadopoulos, who lobbied for a «no» vote in the referendum, commented on Washington’s intention to strengthen ties with the Turkish Cypriots. «The assistance that will be provided must contribute to the reunification of Cyprus and not to permanent division,» Papadopoulos said. He is to meet with Annan on June 3. A top Greek-Cypriot official expressed concern that if the West’s measures were overly benevolent, the Turkish-Cypriot leadership might think it did not need to look forward to a solution. This feeling would be reinforced if the measures included the use of ports and airports in the northern sector. US Ambassador Thomas Miller met with Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis yesterday. After their hourlong talks, Miller confirmed that the US was considering its next steps with regard to the Cyprus issue, but did not provide any details. In a few weeks, the European Commission is to present a package of measures for the Turkish Cypriots, which will include direct trade with the EU. Cypriot Parliament speaker Dimitris Christofias yesterday criticized the Turkish-Cypriot demand that Greek Cypriots show their ID cards along with other EU nationals when crossing the Green Line, saying there should be no limits on movement.