USA assuages Cyprus fears

US Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday assured Foreign Minister George Papandreou that Washington will do all it can to ensure that no crisis breaks out with Turkey on Cyprus. Cyprus topped the agenda during Papandreou’s meeting with Powell in New York yesterday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, while Turkey’s prospects for EU accession and the prospect of an US military attack on Iraq were also discussed. In talks with US officials over the past few days, Papandreou had sought assurances that Washington would pressure Ankara to desist from carrying out threats to annex occupied northern Cyprus or cause a military incident with Greece in the – increasingly likely – event of Cyprus’s being admitted to the European Union in mid-December before a peace settlement has been attained. Diplomatic sources quoted by the Athens News Agency yesterday said Washington has already raised the matter with the Turkish government. The same sources said the US attributes much of the aggressive rhetoric emanating from Ankara to political expediency and diplomatic haggling. Several rounds of face-to-face talks between Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash have produced no indication that the two sides are close to a peace settlement. Yesterday, Powell conveyed to Papandreou Washington’s desire for Turkey to be given a specific date for the initiation of its own EU accession talks. The two also discussed Iraq but Papandreou told journalists that, so far, no mention has been made of EU forces joining in a new Gulf war. In Athens, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said Greece would send no forces to Iraq even in the case of a UN resolution. Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said Athens would back the UN on Iraq.

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