Annan ‘concerned’ on Cyprus

Kofi Annan, at the start of the first visit to Cyprus by a UN secretary-general in 23 years, expressed concern yesterday at the slow pace of efforts to reunite the island. But he did not say much about what he will do in the next two days to revive the talks between President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. «I am concerned at the slow progress, as are members of the Security Council,» Annan told reporters at Larnaca airport. «Decisive progress is needed in the coming period. I have come to highlight the great responsibility the two leaders have undertaken; to urge them to forge ahead with a shared sense of urgency and a willingness to compromise in earnest,» Annan said. Annan stressed the need for progress by the end of June, noting that the two Cypriot leaders had proposed this deadline without the urging of any third party and it had been adopted by the Security Council. «I also want to discuss with them how they can move forward more effectively so as to resolve the main issues by the end of June,» he said. This was seen as a reply to Denktash who has tried to avoid the deadline and play down the significance of Annan’s visit. Yesterday, Denktash’s aide, Mumtaz Soysal, continued the effort, declaring in effect that the talks were at an impasse. «We presume they will accuse us of intransigence again,» he told Reuters, claiming there was intransigence on both sides. Meanwhile, several Turkish-Cypriot trade unions, civic bodies and the opposition Republican People’s Party gave a petition with 17,980 signatures to UN authorities yesterday calling for the reunification of the island under a bizonal federal solution, as desired by the international community, the Turkish-Cypriot news agency TAK reported. But seven business associations have prepared their own petition, underlining the need to resolve the issue by the end of the year through a deal based on two equal states, as desired by Denktash and Turkey. Clerides appeared to appeal to the Turkish-Cypriot desire for broad autonomy in an interview with Turkish television station CNN-Turk. «Our approach is this,» he said. «We want there to be a new constitution (and)… an administration formed by two completely self-governing cantons or states. «It is envisaged that the sides would freely administer the legislative, executive and judicial branches. And the centralized authority… would not have the right to interfere in these.» In Ankara, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said he was concerned Cypriot membership without a settlement would damage candidate Turkey’s relations with the EU. But Yilmaz, out of step perhaps with the mainstream political establishment, suggested Denktash could do more. «He has made a big opening, but it is not sufficient. It is a fact that the Greek-Cypriot side has not responded, but Mr Denktash should therefore be more forthcoming. «That is the only way to make the Europeans more balanced and fair. If, without waiting for the Greek Cypriots to respond, we made more balanced offers, that would be recognized by the EU,» Yilmaz said. (Kathimerini, AP, AFP, Reuters)