NEWS

Papadopoulos poised for talks

As Turkish Cypriots prepare to elect a new leader tomorrow, the indications from the Cypriot government yesterday were that the two sides are likely to move quickly to resume reunification talks. Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said late on Thursday night that he wants to return to the negotiating table «as soon as possible» – the strongest indication yet that he is intent on finding a swift solution to the problem. Talks to reunify the island fell apart last April when Greek Cypriots rejected a blueprint put together by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, while Turkish Cypriots voted overwhelmingly in its favor. Cyprus joined the EU the following month, leaving the Turkish-Cypriot side outside the Union. Since then, the UN has pressured Papadopoulos, who opposed the Annan plan, to submit in writing the changes he wants made to the blueprint. Papadopoulos has been reluctant to do so for fear of revealing his hand before talks begin. However, with pro-settlement Mehmet Ali Talat looking certain to win leadership elections in the Turkish-occupied part of the island, Papadopoulos seems willing to make some concessions. «It cannot be ruled out to give our areas of concern, the subjects that we want talks to focus on,» he said, not providing any specific timetable for negotiations. Talat, head of the center-left Republican Turkish Party (CTP), is the front-runner among nine candidates to replace staunchly nationalist 81-year-old leader Rauf Denktash tomorrow. The CTP won assembly elections in February, forming a coalition with the small center-right Democrat Party. Talat is forecast to gain 60 percent of the vote, according to a poll, putting him some 30 percent ahead of his nearest rival, Dervis Eroglu of the National Unity Party, an Annan plan opponent.