NEWS

PM rebukes Ankara over Cyprus

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday criticized Ankara for maintaining an «outdated, divisive and threatening» stance that has obstructed peace talks on Cyprus and accused the Turks of «arrogance.» Addressing the Cypriot parliament in Nicosia on the second day of an official visit, Karamanlis said that a Cyprus settlement was «a top priority for the Greek government» and called on Turkey to allow leaders of the divided island’s two communities to negotiate freely. «Arrogance is a bad adviser,» the Greek premier said, adding that «respect for the independence and sovereignty of Cyprus has been the cornerstone of Greece’s stance in the Cyprus problem.» Karamanlis also took the opportunity to condemn calls by the new nationalist administration in the Turkish-occupied north of the island for two separate states on Cyprus. According to sources, Karamanlis and Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias saw eye-to-eye on the approach to be taken in United Nations-mediated peace talks over the next few months. But diplomats expressed slim hopes of a breakthrough anytime soon, adding however that «pressure from all sides» is expected to intensify by summer. Karamanlis traveled on to the Bulgarian capital of Sofia later yesterday in the next leg of a tour of the region that is being seen as a bid to boost his standing domestically where scandals and a drop in public support have hurt his administration. Buoyed by his talks with US President Barack Obama earlier this month, the Greek premier reportedly had hoped to also meet with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an energy summit in Sofia. But sources said the Russian leader would probably not attend the event. Karamanlis is scheduled to stop off in Albania before returning to Athens.