Athens set for crucial Cyprus talks

Cypriot plans to launch offshore oil and gas exploration, despite strong objections from Ankara, and the prospects of reunifying Cyprus are to rank high on the agenda of talks between Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and visiting Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos today and tomorrow. Papadopoulos said yesterday that his priority was the resumption of exploratory talks by Greek and Turkish-Cypriot technical committees. A spate of air-space violations carried out by Turkish jets in Greek air space over the past few days and statements by Turkey’s hawkish armed forces chief Yasar Buyukanit suggest that concerns are mounting in Ankara about Nicosia’s exploration plans. Diplomats expect Turkish authorities to pay particular attention to the outcome of today’s meeting in Athens and probably discuss it when the country’s National Security Council convenes on Friday. Buyukanit last week claimed that Turkey’s legal rights, as regards access to unexploited undersea oil and gas reserves, extend to the center of the Mediterranean. He also stressed that Turkish warships «are constantly on duty in the Aegean and Mediterranean,» fueling fears of a show of force against Cyprus. A few days after his comments, Ankara announced its intention to conduct its own oil and gas exploration in the Aegean.