Cyprus talks to be held 3 times a week

Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash began direct negotiations yesterday with a decision to meet three times a week until they reach a solution to their island’s 27-year-long division. This decision in itself cannot indicate what the outcome of the talks will be, but it showed that the direct negotiations under UN mediation will be of an urgent nature, as Cyprus’s impending accession to the EU has intensified efforts to solve the problem of its division. «It was a very encouraging start,» said UN special envoy Alvaro de Soto, saying the two sides had agreed to meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for the foreseeable future, starting next Monday. Denktash said he and Clerides had a «very good, very good» meeting. Asked what had been discussed, Denktash said: «Substance.» «As of Monday, we will discuss what our functions will be,» he said. «Today, we discussed the general framework.» A thoughtful-looking Clerides made no comment. He shook hands with Denktash before the two left through separate exit routes from Nicosia’s airport, abandoned since Turkey’s invasion in 1974. According to sources, Clerides wants to start the negotiations by focusing on the difficult issues, with a priority being the new constitution of the Republic of Cyprus. The Greek side wants a single international presence, a bizonal, bicommunal federation without the right to separatism. If there is agreement on this, then the talks will go ahead on other vital issues. The talks are to be held under a media blackout. «These are likely to be lengthy talks, and we will be calling and letting you know if there are any announcements,» de Soto told reporters. Denktash, who leads a breakaway state in northern Cyprus recognized only by Turkey, tried to neutralize the UN representative’s role at the start of the talks yesterday, arriving at the airport accompanied only by one aide. After private negotiations with Clerides and de Soto, though, the talks went ahead with aides joining the three. The Greek government expressed its satisfaction at the outcome of yesterday’s talks. Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem called it «the best opportunity of the last years,» for a solution. (Kathimerini, Reuters, AP, AFP)

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