Cyprus talks aim at reunification;-Rival leaders OK new negotiations
Chicago Tribune, October 5, 2002
SECTION: News; Pg. 3; ZONE: MW
HEADLINE: Cyprus talks aim at reunification; Rival leaders OK new negotiations
BYLINE: Reuters DATELINE: NEW YORK
Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash agreed Friday to a new round of talks in early November, presumably after Turkish elections, in hopes of a quick deal to reunify the divided Mediterranean island.
Capping two days of talks at the United Nations, the rival leaders told reporters as they left UN headquarters that they also agreed to appoint two committees to work on technical issues while Denktash recovers from heart surgery scheduled for Monday. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who held the talks, issued a statement that acknowledged an "encouraging effort" on the part of Clerides, a Greek Cypriot, and Denktash.
Clerides and Denktash had previously met a month ago in Paris as part of talks that have been going on since January.
Their goal is to strike an agreement before Dec. 12, when European Union leaders at an EU summit in Copenhagen are expected to invite Cyprus to join the bloc.
If no agreement is reached before the Copenhagen meeting and a divided Cyprus is asked to join, Turkey has warned it may "annex" the northern part of the island, effectively wrecking its own hopes of EU membership.
There had been little hope for progress at the New York talks as the Turkish general elections approach Nov. 3.
While Annan has been widely expected to soon put forward his own peace plan, diplomats said he had shelved the idea for now for fear of getting embroiled in Turkish politics.
"The opportunity that is at hand must be seized," Annan said in his statement. "In this regard, Greece and Turkey have an important role to play, and I look forward to their continued support."
Acknowledging there was "no simple solution to the Cyprus problem," Annan said the two new committees were intended to help arrive at a deal.
Alvaro de Soto, Annan's special envoy for Cyprus, said a date had not been set for the next round of talks but that Annan had asked the leaders to "clear their calendars" for November.
He said he was going to Cyprus next week to begin setting up the two committees. One would focus on treaties for a new "common state" while the second would look at laws, he said.
He would not elaborate on what kind of treaties were at issue.
Cyprus, with a population of about 750,000 people and a land area smaller than the U.S. state of Connecticut, has been divided since Turkey invaded in 1974 after a Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the military then ruling Greece.
Greek Cypriots want one state comprising two ethnic regions, while Turkish Cypriots want a union of two largely independent states in a new confederation that would replace the existing internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus.