NEWS

Hardliners critical of UN proposal

As Cypriot officials yesterday called for a calm appraisal of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal for Cyprus’s reunification, reactions in Athens and Ankara burst into the open, with hardliners in Greece’s ruling party and Turkey’s outgoing foreign minister condemning the proposal for ostensibly giving too much to the other side. Significantly, apart from the small Communist Party which choked traffic with a protest rally in central Athens yesterday, the strongest opposition to Annan’s plan in Greece has come from members of the ruling PASOK party. Former Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, former Defense Minister Gerasimos Arsenis and former Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Kapsis presented Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday with a paper proclaiming that Annan’s plan formalized Cyprus’s division, did not lead to a functional state and legalized the presence of Turkish settlers. The protest came during Papandreou’s briefing of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee. Papandreou, who appeared angry at first, thanked his colleagues for their opinions, saying they had raised valid issues. Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who was in Warsaw yesterday for a meeting of the European Socialist Party, said people should not rush to judge the proposal which was presented on Monday. Annan wants the Greek and Turkish Cypriots to reply by Monday whether they agree that the plan is the basis for negotiation. «We have asked everyone to look at the issue clearly, seriously, responsibly. We will do damage if we rush to conclusions, generally, over the whole issue,» Simitis told a news conference. «And allow me to repeat what I said in Athens: The Cypriots will play the leading role in this. The Cypriots will decide because the issue concerns them. So before we in Greece get into debates on the subject, let us allow it to be discussed by the Cypriots in the framework that they have established, and we will contribute when they ask us to.» Sources close to Simitis say he may present a joint meeting of PASOK’s parliamentary caucus and central committee on Nov. 28-29 with the choice of deciding between the UN plan and Cyprus’s division. Cypriot Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides and Parliament Speaker Dimitris Christofias both warned that public discussion could harm President Glafcos Clerides’s negotiating position. Clerides is to visit Athens for talks with Simitis and party leaders tomorrow. On Monday he will brief Cypriot political leaders, before Annan’s deadline. Also on Monday, the leader of Turkey’s next ruling party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will visit Athens for talks with Simitis. Yesterday, Erdogan came under fire from his country’s outgoing foreign minister, Sukru Sina Gurel, who claimed (quoting Athens daily To Vima) that Erdogan had held secret negotiations with Simitis and promised him the Cyprus issue and Turkish-Greek problems would be solved. Erdogan’s party denied this. But Gurel, a hardliner on Cyprus, claimed also: «The text of the plan has been given to Greek Cypriots by the secretariat of the United Nations beforehand and their consent has been received… That’s why the plan is gravely problematic.» He said, though, that the new Turkish government and the Turkish Cypriots would decide. In Ankara yesterday, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said that «with political will, 40 days should be more than enough» to reunify Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots salute division In the middle of the renewed effort to reunite Cyprus, Turkish Cypriots will today celebrate the 19th anniversary of the unilateral declaration of independence which divided the island further after the 1974 Turkish invasion. The commemoration has been accompanied by the customary declarations that the breakaway state will remain independent. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash is to leave New York today to return to the occupied part of Nicosia. He said yesterday that the breakaway state had been «established to exist for ever.» He is to be joined in northern Cyprus tomorrow by the leader of Turkey’s next ruling party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Denktash said he was unhappy with territorial adjustments proposed by the UN, adding, «We do not want to discuss maps before recognition that our land, our people will be sovereign.» But he pledged to assess the plan «with prudence and good will,» the Anatolia news agency reported. «Even though it does not say, ‘Take it or leave it,’ this is the ultimate impression it gives. We cannot accept this,» he added. Turkey’s top general, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, said in Cyprus that reunification should be based on «a new partnership between two sovereign states.»