NEWS

Cyprus fury over Straw remarks

Cyprus lodged an official protest with Britain yesterday over remarks from Foreign Secretary Jack Straw accusing it of using its European Union membership against the Turkish Cypriots, as ties between Nicosia and London head toward a crisis point. Straw told the British Parliament on Wednesday that the Greek-Cypriot side was trying to «marginalize» the Turkish Cypriots in the island’s north and is using its EU membership as unacceptable leverage to advance its interests under stalled UN peace efforts. «The government of Cyprus is now seeking to use its membership of the EU to try unacceptably to seek progress on their United Nations-related issues,» he said. Nicosia described Straw’s comments as lacking in diplomacy, fueling tension between the two countries. «Mr Straw created this confrontational climate with the way he organized his visit to Cyprus… despite our well-known disagreement, and he made the climate worse with his unprovoked remarks,» said Cyprus government spokesman Giorgos Lilikas. He added that Cyprus was not seeking a confrontation with Britain. The British foreign secretary angered Cyprus on January 25 when he insisted on meeting with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. As a result, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos refused to meet with Straw. Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou yesterday called the British High Commissioner to Cyprus, Peter Millet to a meeting lasting 45 minutes during which he explained that Nicosia felt Straw’s comments were unacceptable and misleading. Greece, meanwhile, appeared reluctant to be drawn into the issue by repeating its stance of supporting the island’s reunification and a conditional economic boost for the Turkish Cypriots. «If there is an issue of isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, then that is due to the occupation,» said Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis.