NEWS

Verheugen regrets Denktash’s no to talks

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s top enlargement official said yesterday he was disappointed at a decision by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash not to return to UN-sponsored talks on the future of the divided island. The EU, which recognizes only the Cypriot government in Nicosia, is anxious to end the decades-old division ahead of Cyprus’s accession to the Union in the next few years. I am very disappointed that Mr. Denktash has not accepted the UN Secretary-General’s invitation to talks on September 12, EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said in a statement. The Commission considers that the window of opportunity for reaching a solution before accession remains open and encourages all interested parties to undertake all efforts with this aim in view, he said. On Wednesday, Denktash repeated his insistence that talks could only resume if he was recognized as the equal of Greek-Cypriot leader Glafcos Clerides, who is president of the internationally recognized government of Cyprus. On Wednesday, disregarding Verheugen’s advice, members of the European Parliament adopted a report which warns Turkey that its membership bid would be ended if it annexed Turkish-speaking northern Cyprus when the island joins the bloc. Ankara reacted angrily to the report, saying it had never had any plans to annex northern Cyprus. The EU would prefer a resolution to the Cyprus issue before accession but also says it would admit a divided island if necessary.