A tough fight on two fronts

Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou has tried to pre-empt any connection between the issue of the European rapid reaction force and Cyprus’s candidacy to become a member of the European Union, in an interview printed yesterday. «There is no logical basis in connecting these two issues. We refuse to enter into such a discussion,» Papantoniou told Sunday Eleftherotypia newspaper. Regardless of Papantoniou’s views, Greece may find the two issues linked. It is the only country holding out against the creation of the Euroforce, because it considers that Turkey, a non-EU member, is given too much power to interfere in decisions concerning the force’s operations. The other 14 EU members disagree and the issue of Cyprus’s accession may come up if Greece vetoes the Euroforce. The Cypriots themselves are aware of this possibility; Cypriot government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said it was possible that the issues of the European army, the occupation of Cyprus, Turkish claims in the Aegean, and Turkey’s relationship will become a package and solved together. Greece finds itself in a delicate position diplomatically and knows it. That is why Prime Minister Costas Simitis has agreed to brief opposition party leaders on Friday. Simitis has said that «national consensus» was necessary on these issues. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said yesterday that Turkish Cypriots will «never» abandon their claim for sovereignty and a loose union with the Greek-Cypriot sector. Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Cassoulides said that Denktash had until the fall to change his mind before the «window of opportunity» closed and Cyprus embarked toward EU membership.