NEWS

Bush calls Simitis over Turk-EU ties

Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides arrived in Athens yesterday for meetings with Greek officials aimed at coordinating a response to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal for a solution to the Cyprus problem. Annan has asked Greek and Turkish Cypriots to tell him by Monday whether they agree that the plan is the basis for negotiations aimed at a comprehensive settlement for the Cyprus problem. Underscoring the international interest and urgency to reach a solution before Cyprus is invited to join the EU next month, US President George W. Bush yesterday telephoned Prime Minister Costas Simitis in Warsaw, where the Greek leader was attending a meeting of the European Socialist Party. Simitis said that the two did not discuss Cyprus but that Bush told him «only that he has discussed this issue with Mr Annan repeatedly.» Simitis said Bush had called him to discuss the possibility of Turkey being given a date by the EU to begin its own accession talks at the EU summit on December 12. «He praised Greece’s position, which is that it would be prudent not to close the door to Turkey in Copenhagen and to set a date for the start of negotiations,» Simitis said. «I informed the US president that the solution to problems cannot come about without actions by the Turkish side, and that we have come to a point where we need clear evidence that things are changing… so that there is a climate of mutual trust,» he said. He said he had cited Annan’s plan for Cyprus and Turkey’s objections to the EU’s nascent defense force using NATO assets as two areas where Ankara could show its good intentions. Before leaving Warsaw, Simitis also met with Turkey’s opposition party leader, Deniz Baykal. Baykal said he had not been able to evaluate the Annan plan and could not express an opinion, Simitis said. «We agreed that we need to improve Greek-Turkish relations, that great steps have been taken lately, but that they must continue,» Simitis said. He also told Reuters of the scheduled visit to Athens on Monday of the leader of Turkey’s biggest party. «I meet Mr (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan on Monday, and I hope he understands that if he insists on the position of Turkey up to now, there can be no progress,» he said.