NEWS

Cyprus deal vital, says Greek PM

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday expressed Greece’s full support for Nicosia’s efforts to revive peace talks on the divided island of Cyprus and called on Turkish Cypriots to be more cooperative to ensure sputtering negotiations remain on track. At a time of increased tension in the Aegean, where Turkish vessels and aircraft have been encroaching on Greek air space and territorial waters, Papandreou also stressed the importance to Athens of a Cyprus solution. «For us, solving the Cyprus problem is a precondition for full normalization of Greco-Turkish relations,» said Papandreou following talks with Cyprus President Dimitris Christofias in Nicosia. «As far as Greece and Turkey are concerned, Cyprus can either divide us or unite us. Obviously we seek the latter,» said the Greek premier, who on Tuesday received Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou in Athens for talks. Speaking a day after Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu accused Nicosia of intransigence, Papandreou appealed to the Turkish-Cypriot administration to «seriously study» a package of proposals put forward last week by Christofias. Papandreou praised the efforts of Christofias in pursuing a consensus with hardliner Eroglu and said Greece backed the Cyprus leader’s proposals. «This shows that President Christofias is one step ahead in initiatives to solve the Cyprus problem,» Papandreou said. Later yesterday, the Greek premier flew to Israel for an official visit. One of Christofias’s proposals sees the port of Famagusta in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus being opened to direct trade under the auspices of the European Union in exchange for the return of the area of Varosia to Greek Cypriots. Eroglu on Tuesday ruled out the return of Varosia and called on Nicosia to be more cooperative with the Turkish-Cypriot administration.