Cyprus to improve British ties

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos said on Saturday that he will seek to ease strained Cyprus-Britain relations when he meets with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London next week. «It is clear that tensions have been created recently and there have been misunderstandings with London,» Papadopoulos told reporters before departing for Britain where he is due to hold talks with Blair tomorrow. «We can’t say that these relations are tragic but all (bilateral) relations are open to improvement and that’s what we will try and do here,» he added. Ties between Nicosia and London came to a nadir following last year’s Greek-Cypriot rejection of a UN reunification plan for the divided island which Britain had supported. Britain was viewed by Greek Cypriots as being the architect of the peace plan which they argued met all Turkish-Cypriot demands while ignoring theirs. Although Turkish Cypriots in the north of the island voted in favor of the plan, the peace accord failed due to the Greek-Cypriot «no» in a referendum in April, 2004. Papadopoulos was criticized for leading the «no» campaign and navigating a divided island into the European Union a week after the vote. Nicosia has since criticized London for pursuing a «pro-Turkish» stance within the EU and backing direct flight and trade links to the north in order to ease the economic isolation of Turkish Cypriots denied the full benefits of EU accession. The internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government says such moves are illegal, as the Turkish-occupied north of the island is only recognized by Ankara. Britain, along with Brussels and Washington, has sought to «reward» Turkish Cypriots for backing the UN plan, putting them at loggerheads with Nicosia. Moreover, Britain has retained two key sovereign military bases on the island – housing 10,000 troops and their dependents – following Cyprus’s independence from colonial rule in 1960. It is seen as no coincidence that Greek-Cypriot politicians have started to question the presence of the bases on Cyprus during a time of soured relations with London.

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