NEWS

Cyprus talks ‘must stay on track’

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday stressed the importance of momentum being maintained in the latest round of United Nations-mediated peace talks on Cyprus, irrespective of who wins scheduled elections in the Turkish-occupied north on Sunday. «The European Union and the international community will expect, regardless of who leads the Turkish-Cypriot community, that any gains made in the existing negotiation process not be lost,» Papandreou said following talks in Nicosia with Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias. «The talks cannot start from scratch,» Papandreou added. The Greek premier acknowledged that there had been some progress in the latest round of peace talks on Cyprus «though not to the degree that we had hoped.» He also praised the government in Nicosia for working «patiently and persistently toward a solution» and he called on Turkish Cypriots to contribute to the peace effort «in a more constructive way and with the will for a solution.» Christofias was more outspoken, noting that he would be unwilling to resume negotiations from scratch if hardliner Dervis Eroglu beats incumbent Mehmet Ali Talat, a moderate, in the elections. «I am not prepared to start from the beginning after 18 months of negotiations with Turkish-Cypriot leader Mr Talat which have created the basis for a negotiated settlement,» Christofias said. «I won’t even consider starting from zero. Whoever makes this demand must be willing to pay the price in Europe and internationally,» he added. Christofias was responding to reporters’ questions on what he would do if Talat is defeated by Eroglu, who might want to launch a new talks process. Eroglu, who has the lead in opinion polls, told a rally of supporters’ over the weekend that the current parameters outlining a peace deal «don’t make sense.» He also said he would «bring the reality» of the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus to the negotiating table. Talat has warned in interviews of Cyprus talks collapsing if Eroglu wins Sunday’s elections.