EU urges renewed Cyprus peace bid

Four days after European Union leaders granted Turkey a date for the start of accession talks conditional on Ankara offering Cyprus a gesture of recognition, the EU presidency yesterday urged Greek and Turkish Cypriots to have another stab at reunification. «For Cyprus, we need to make sure that the opportunities available are made use of to the best possible extent,» Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende told the European Parliament. «I think in this context the parties should make use of the good offices of [UN Secretary-General] Kofi Annan, who renewed his offer [at the Brussels summit] just last Friday.» But he also stressed that Turkey’s new obligation to extend its EU customs deal to Cyprus and the other nine new EU members by October 3 – when the accession talks are officially due to start – should not be confused with any new reunification effort. Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said such a drive could start in 2005, while leading Turkish-Cypriot politician Mehmet Ali Talat has urged a solution before October 3. But Athens and Nicosia have expressed reservations at the idea. Meanwhile, military tension grew again in the Aegean yesterday morning, as a Turkish coast guard patrol boat approached to within 200 meters of the Imia islet in the eastern Dodecanese, over which Greece and Turkey came close to trading blows in January 1996. A Greek navy patrol boat ordered the Turks to leave – which they did after an hour and 45 minutes.