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Tassos: No progress expected with Denktash as negotiator
2003-09-02 17:16:52

(Agence France Presse - August 31, 2003)-- Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash must stand down to allow deadlocked peace talks to resume on the divided Mediterranean island, Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said in remarks published Sunday.

"For as long as Denktash remains in power and acts as the negotiator we cannot expect any progress in negotiations" between the island's two communities, Papadopoulos told the Cypriot newspaper Eleftheros Typos.

"There will be no substantial discussion on the plan" for the island's future, put forward by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, while Denktash remains in place, he added.

Talks on reunifying the island, which has been divided for three decades, have been in limbo since the failure to agree on a UN settlement plan in March.

Greek Cypriots and opposition parties in the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised only by Ankara, have blamed Denktash for the collapse of the peace process.

Papadopoulos, who heads the internationally-recognised and wealthier Greek Cypriot south, said he was eager to pursue negotiations but that Denktash had left the UN blueprint for dead.

The Greek Cypriot leader voiced hope that Denktash could be forced out following Turkish Cypriot parliamentary elections to be held in December.

"If the opposition win a clear victory, perhaps the picture could change" following the election, Papadopoulos said.

Denktash has said he would voluntarily stand down as president if his party is beaten in the parliamentary poll.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the island after an Athens-engineered military coup aimed at uniting the independent republic with Greece.

The international community has been pressing the two communities to reach a settlement, to allow a reunited Cyprus to join the European Union in May 2004.

If not, the Turkish Cypriot community will be left out in the cold while only the internationally-recognised Greek Cypriot south enjoys the benefits of EU membership.

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