NEWS

Cypriots say Turks arming the north

The round of direct talks taking place between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is expected to end on February 19, according to a Cypriot government spokesman, Michalis Papapetrou, who said yesterday that the next round would begin in June. By that time, Papapetrou said, the talks might show whether there was enough common ground for an overall agreement or for a framework for talks. The spokesman’s comments, however, were overshadowed by allegations by the Cypriot defense minister yesterday that the Turkish side was undermining the dialogue by sending military hardware to the occupied part of Cyprus. Papapetrou did not comment on reports that Clerides had warned foreign mediators that if Denktash kept to his intransigent position, the talks would soon stall. The two men have been meeting three times a week at a UN facility at the abandoned Nicosia airport since January 21, under a news blackout. Cypriot media reported that Turkey had sent weapons, including powerful tanks, to northern Cyprus on January 30-31. The reports said the equipment had been unloaded at the eastern port of Famagusta and an air base northeast of Nicosia. «This does not convince (us) that the Turks want a settlement and that they really mean it,» Defense Minister Socrates Hasikos said. A Turkish-Cypriot army spokesman said: «They have received the wrong intelligence… No new weapons, or any weapons for that matter, have been shipped to the island.» In Athens, meanwhile, government spokesman Christos Protopappas said that Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou had spoken over the telephone with his Turkish counterpart, Sabahattin Cakmakoglu, on Monday. «It is a fact that the number of (aircraft) violations of our national air space have increased,» Protopappas said. He added that the government remained focused on the Clerides-Denktash talks, Cyprus’s impending accession to the EU and the exploratory talks to be held between Greek and Turkish diplomats to determine whether an agreement could be reached on taking the issue of the Aegean’s continental shelf to the International Court. «This is what we must concentrate on and not lose our sense of direction,» Protopappas said.