NEWS

Troop movements denounced

Athens expressed concern yesterday at reports that Turkey is boosting its military occupation force in northern Cyprus, but said it would remain undistracted from efforts to sidetrack the divided island’s accession to the European Union and the course of ongoing bi-communal peace talks. Foreign Minister George Papandreou called the recent shipping of Turkish troops to the north of the island «a negative event.» «But we are trying to achieve a solution to the Cyprus problem,» he added. «Military occupation has no place in contemporary society and the international chessboard, and no place among countries that wish to be friends.» «Our position is to remain calm and determined in our targets,» he added, following a meeting in Athens with US special envoy for Cyprus Thomas Weston. On Tuesday, Cypriot Defense Minister Socrates Hasikos accused Turkey of having sent an additional 5,500 soldiers to occupied northern Cyprus between May 24 and June 9, in what he called «a war of nerves against the Greek Cypriots and the EU.» There are now an estimated 40,000 Turkish soldiers on the island. Invited to comment yesterday on Hasikos’s claim, Weston said Washington has long advocated the reduction of military forces on Cyprus. «Increases in the military if they take place, increases in weapons acquisitions. .. is something that the United States is going to argue should not be done,» he said. Turning to the ongoing – and, so far, fruitless – direct talks between Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, Weston said he believed «it is possible to get that settlement in a very short period of time if the necessary political will is present to do it.» Clerides and Denktash met on Tuesday, and will do so again tomorrow.