Cypriot doubts over swift deal

While the Cypriot president yesterday cast doubt on whether a deal to reunify Cyprus would be struck in the near future, a US envoy who met Tassos Papadopoulos urged the Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot sides to generate momentum for new talks rather than wait for a helping hand. When asked whether an agreement on the island’s future might be possible before October, when Turkey is due to begin negotiations to join the EU, Papadopoulos appeared cautious. «Since we have not yet started the talks, it is very hard to predict. We have had a bad experience once that time limits do not work,» he said, referring to a failed attempt last year, under UN auspices, to agree on reunification terms with the Turkish Cypriots. After meeting Papadopoulos, Laura Kennedy, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, repeated calls by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the Greek Cypriots in particular to make known their objections to the reunification blueprint they rejected last April. Kennedy said that this would make for a «realistic» approach to the problem and would allow for negotiations between the two sides, stalled since last year, to resume. Nicosia, however, is reluctant to reveal its hand before talks start again. «It is not the US, the UN or the EU that will solve the Cyprus problem. That is up to the Cypriots,» said Kennedy, in Nicosia yesterday on a fact-finding mission that has already included visits to Ankara and Athens this week. Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said yesterday that Nicosia would need to be made aware of the negotiation process before it could make its position known. Kennedy is due to meet with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat today.