Australia's Cyprus envoy: Denktash paper ''unacceptable''
by Maria Myles
Nicosia, Mar 1 (CNA) -- Jim Short, Australia's Cyprus envoy, has said that time is running out in the race to meet the deadlines set out by the UN on a political settlement and stresses that tough and substantive negotiations have to take place in the weeks ahead if a solution is to be found by May 1 when Cyprus joins the European Union.
In an interview with CNA, after concluding his visit here, Short said a paper Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash tabled last week at the talks is ''clearly unacceptable'' and pointed out that it would be inconceivable to use that document as a basis for negotiation.
He believes that there has been a fundamental change in approach in Ankara with regard to the question of Cyprus and thinks that neither Greece nor Turkey are too keen on actually getting involved in the talks, which resumed on February 19 under UN Secretary General's special adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto.
''I came away from Ankara with a very positive impression compared with my previous visit about a year ago, there has been a fundamental change in approach and feeling in Turkey and I was very encouraged by that,'' Short said after his recent tour of Athens, Ankara and Nicosia as well as Washington and New York.
He reiterated Australia's very strong support for a settlement and warned that if the opportunity for a solution is not seized now, ''the prospects for the future look very bleak, I do not know how it would get going again.''
Short said that his visit to Cyprus tempered his optimism, adding that very tough negotiations should take place this month as no substantive negotiations had actually taken place in the first week.
''Nothing has been achieved, with only three weeks to go, time is really running out and we hope all parties will get down to serious and substantive negotiations,'' he said.
Short expressed concern about the Denktash paper which he said is seen by many as ''highly controversial, in many aspects well outside the parameters of the Annan plan (UN proposal on a settlement) and attempting to reopen everything that had in fact been agreed in the context of the New York meeting.''
''That to us is a very serious problem, the document is clearly unacceptable, it is not conceivable that it can be the basis for negotiation, the Denktash paper has received very negative reaction, if it was a tactical ploy, I think it was a mistake,'' he told CNA.
The paper seeks to restrict the political rights of Greek Cypriots that would reside in the Turkish Cypriot administered state, claims that sovereignty will emanate from what is calls the two peoples, to limit the number of Greek Cypriots who would have to right to return to their homes in the Turkish Cypriot administered state of a united Cyprus and suggests that illegal Turkish settlers who had arrived on the island years ago should remain here.
Asked to explain the encouragement he found in Ankara and Denktash's submission of such a paper, Short said ''what I find here is very much at odds with what I found in Turkey, I mean the Denktash paper but also the atmospherics of the negotiation up to date.''
''If Ankara actually endorsed the Denktash paper, it is confusing because it is at odds with the spirit and specifics of what I heard in Ankara, one would have expected that the approach of Turkish Cypriots here this past week would have been less confusing,'' he added.
Replying to other questions, he said that the paper attempts to reopen virtually everything. Short appeared confused about the message Denktash is trying to put across by such a move.
On Ankara's positions on Cyprus, he said there are some issues of real concern to the Turkish government relating to security and strengthened bizonality until Turkey joins the EU, but also said that Ankara is prepared to be flexible on other aspects of a solution such as defining the boundaries between the two constituent states of a united Cyprus.
Invited to explain Turkish security concerns relating to Cyprus, the Australian envoy put it down to decades of mistrust on both sides and feelings and attitudes of mind. He pointed out that the accession of a united Cyprus would be of huge benefit for the concerns of both sides.
Replying to other questions, he said Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Greece and Turkey are not too keen on getting involved in extended negotiations.
Athens and Ankara fear coming into the negotiating process to find that nothing has advanced, he added.
This is a possibility they genuinely do not wish to confront, he explained, and said that it would more difficult to promote a ''yes'' vote in the referendum if Kofi Annan has to step in and finalise a plan which essentially no party directly involved would have endorsed.
According to the agreement reached by the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides last month on the resumption of talks, negotiations between President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash should conclude on March 22. If this fails, Greece and Turkish will join the two sides to help them reach a settlement and should that attempt fail too, Kofi Annan will finalise the plan, which is to be put to separate simultaneous referenda on April 22.