Athens, Nicosia to forge united front

Prime Minister George Papandreou and Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias yesterday agreed to coordinate their efforts to convince Turkey to respect its obligations as a European Union candidate state, and recognize the Republic of Cyprus as an existing member, ahead of a scheduled EU report on the progress of Ankara’s accession talks in December. Speaking on his first trip to Nicosia as premier, Papandreou remarked that «Greece is once again at Cyprus’s side.» He stressed the importance of the divided island being reunified and to this end called on Turkish troops to withdraw from its occupied north. «Certainly occupying troops cannot be allowed to remain deployed in an EU member state, especially by an EU candidate country,» Papandreou said. Christofias who has been in United Nations-mediated talks with Turkish-Cypriot community leader Mehmet Ali Talat for the past year, said the time was more than ripe for a solution. «We do not just want a settlement, we are pushing for one,» Christofias said. But he added, «We are not masochists; we cannot accept Turkey acquiring full EU membership without first achieving a Cyprus settlement.» Although the two leaders agreed to harmonize their initiatives ahead of the EU’s summit in December, they avoided providing details about what their next moves would be. Sources said it was likely that they would set up joint committees to orchestrate a series of concerted actions over the coming weeks. Diplomatic sources told Kathimerini that the first initiative was likely to be a joint diplomatic offensive aimed at EU member states. The objective will be to increase pressure on Ankara to conform to EU demands by recognizing the Republic of Cyprus and opening up its air and sea ports to Cypriot aircraft and vessels.