Cyprus talks in Athens

Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides is to meet with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and party leaders in Athens today, at a juncture considered crucial for his country’s future. All indications are that in the next two months Cyprus’s future will be decided, through the efforts to solve the island’s division and the finalization of its accession to the European Union. The ill health of Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who underwent major heart surgery on October 7, is expected to complicate matters. Yesterday a close aide, Ergin Olgun, said Denktash’s doctors had forbidden him to work for eight weeks after his operation. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to present his proposals for a solution to the Cyprus issue between the Turkish elections of November 3 and the EU’s Copenhagen summit on December 13 that is to decide on enlargement. Clerides and Simitis are expected to discuss possible problems that may arise before the Copenhagen summit – something that Simitis has already voiced concern over. They will also look at the obligations that Cyprus must meet in accordance with the European Commission’s progress report that was made public last week. They are expected to discuss how Greece’s EU partners will be informed of the efforts Cyprus has made to help the UN-mediated peace talks, seeing as the EU summit is expected to discuss this. They will also consider what action Turkey might take before the summit, where Ankara wants the EU to give it a date for the start of its own accession talks but has said it will make no deal over Cyprus in exchange. Simitis is expected to visit EU capitals in order to explain Greece’s position on the issue of enlargement and, in particular, Cyprus’s accession. The Cyprus issue has become more complicated by the poor health of Denktash, 78, who had a heart valve replaced in New York and was due to leave the hospital tomorrow. But one of his doctors, Dervis Oral, told Agence France-Presse from New York that Denktash was suffering from breathing problems. «He will have to remain for some time longer,» Oral said, adding that such problems were normal after heart operations. Clerides declined to comment on whether this would allow enough time for a solution. «Nobody can say if one month is adequate time because nobody knows what the UN secretary-general will submit or what the positions of either side will be,» he said.