NEWS

Cyprus leader ready for talks

Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias said yesterday that he would meet Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat for talks between March 17 and 24. Christofias warned against expecting too much from the first meeting, noting that he would only be willing to resume peace negotiations with Talat if these are based on a stalled July 2006 agreement between the two sides for the launch of exploratory talks on specific issues. «We will try and see if Talat will honor his signature of the July 8 agreement,» Christofias said. Talat is believed to still back the Annan plan for reunifying Cyprus, rejected by Greek Cypriots in 2004. The Cyprus leader stressed that for cooperation to develop «umbilical cords must be cut,» noting that the Turkish Cypriots’ umbilical cord is Ankara. A basic goal is the island’s demilitarization, Christofias said. «Foreign troops have no place in a united Cyprus, neither do guarantor powers have the right to intervention,» he said.