NEWS

New FM seeks to allay fears of Cyprus shift

Newly appointed Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis yesterday highlighted the Cyprus problem and the development of Greek-Turkish relations as her priorities while Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis sought to assuage Cypriot fears of an unfavorable shift in Greece’s stance toward Nicosia. Bakoyannis, who had in the past openly backed the Annan plan for the reunification of Cyprus despite its rejection by Greek Cypriots, spoke to both Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and her Cypriot counterpart George Iakovou on the telephone and invited the latter to Athens next week. In both conversations, Bakoyannis stressed «the extreme importance of constant communication and cooperation between the Greek and Cypriot governments in the joint effort to find a solution to the Cyprus problem,» the ministry said. Papadopoulos and Iakovou denied claims in the press that they feared a shift in Greece’s stance on Cyprus. «I don’t think there is any evidence of a shift. On the contrary, we are looking forward to a peerless cooperation,» Papadopoulos said. Meanwhile, Karamanlis also sought to ease Cypriot concerns. «In April 2004, the Cypriot people made a decision which we are all obliged to accept,» he told the Cypriot daily Fileleftheros. He called for a «well-prepared process of talks, without constricting deadlines… aimed at a settlement which will be backed by all Cypriots.» «In this struggle the Cypriots have Greece’s unshakeable backing,» he added. But much of the Cypriot press was skeptical about Bakoyannis’s appointment. According to daily Simerini, the move «has provoked a sense of political numbness and concern.» However, Cypriot government spokesman Giorgos Lillikas stressed that Nicosia did not doubt Athens’s intentions. «We are sure that our close and impeccable cooperation will continue with Mrs Bakoyannis,» he said. According to sources in Nicosia, Papadopoulos is due to meet UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, architect of the rejected reunification plan for Cyprus, in Paris on February 28.