NEWS

Turkey wants time to look at proposal

Turkey is not expected to tell UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan by Monday whether it accepts his proposal for a solution to the Cyprus problem as the basis for negotiations, the Anatolia news agency reported yesterday. It cited «high-level diplomatic sources» in Ankara as saying Annan’s seven-day deadline was «a request» not «an obligation.» The agency said Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash’s ill health (he is still in New York) and the fact that a new Turkish government has not yet been formed were delaying Turkey’s response. «We will discuss the details when a government has been formed,» said Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the party that will form Turkey’s next government. «At this moment, there is a UN proposal. This came at the wrong time,» he said in Rome, where he met with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. But the deputy chairman of his Justice and Development Party said he believed a deal could indeed be achieved by the deadline of next month’s EU summit. «I think so, it’s very crucial,» said Abdullah Gul, who could be Turkey’s next prime minister in view of Erdogan’s ban from public office. The negotiations «will not take much time,» he told Agence France-Presse. Outgoing Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit saw good and bad in the plan. «For the first time in the name of the United Nations, the possibility of equality for both sides is being secured. This is a pleasing development but there are some elements that concern us,» he told Turkey’s NTV news channel. «It’s clear that (the plan) is something we can exchange opinions over,» he said. But he opposed the handing back of Turkish-occupied territory. «When the Turkish population in the envisaged territories is taken into consideration, it is understood that it reaches 150-160,000. Of course, this is not something that can be understood.» He also said that a reduction of the 35,000 or so Turkish troops on the island «is not something we can digest.» Erdogan’s foreign policy aide, Yasar Yakis, said, «We will examine the plan carefully. If it satisfies the expectations of the Turkish Cypriots we will not oppose it.» He added that if Turkish Cypriots accepted a change of borders, «we will not feel uneasy, as long as we do not lose strategic places.»