UN tries to keep Cyprus talks going

UN-mediated efforts to end the Cyprus dispute appeared to be at a dead end yesterday after Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash rejected the possibility of the talks continuing after December. On Thursday, before meeting in New York with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Denktash said that if the EU accepts Cyprus as a member, as it is expected to do at its Copenhagen summit in December, «the talks will end and Cyprus will be divided for ever.» Annan said yesterday he will try to keep Denktash in the talks. Annan met with Denktash and Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides on Thursday and again yesterday and said he hoped to resume the talks once Denktash recovered completely from a heart operation. Denktash, 78, will have his aorta valve replaced at New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Health Center on Monday. Denktash suffered a heart attack in 1999 and then underwent major surgery. He underwent a routine angioplasty on Wednesday to open clogged arteries. «We should be able to continue our work once he has dealt with his medical problem,» Annan told reporters. He declined to say what his plans were in case there was no resolution before the December EU admission date. «We will jump that hurdle when we get there,» he said. «We are pursuing our efforts and we are going to work very hard in the search for a solution.» Diplomatic sources at the UN said that Annan had expressed exasperation to Denktash regarding his demand for recognition for his breakaway state. News agencies quoted EU sources as saying yesterday that the European Commission’s regular report on candidate countries, due out on Wednesday, will propose a 2004 date for 10 countries to join the group. This will include Cyprus but not Turkey. Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said he would not recommend a date for the start of entry talks with Turkey until after the November 3 Turkish elections. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said after talks with PM Costas Simitis in Athens that «Turkey can get a date for starting negotiations only if and when Turkey fulfills the political criteria.»