Cypriots offer to cancel missile contract


PRESIDENT Glafkos Clerides of Cyprus has said he would be prepared to cancel his government's controversial missile deal with Russia if Turkey agreed to a settlement of the Cyprus dispute.

Ankara has threatened to attack the 5-300 ground to air missiles if and when they are deployed in the Paphos area, plunging the island - and the Aegean - into a Greek Turkish conflict.

Speaking in Davos, Switzerland, where he met the UN Secretary General, Mr Clerides warned, that "a military solution would have disastrous consequences for all Cypriots, Greek and Turkish alike".

He urged the international community to exert greater pressure on Ankara "to convince Turkey that if ft continues to occupy [the northern part of] Cyprus ... it cannot be accepted [into the EU]."

He pressed mediators to "co ordinate" their efforts and repeated his call for the demilitarisation of the island and the deployment of a multinational force to keep the peace.

Mr Clerides's meeting with the UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, was one of a series of weekend contacts aimed at finding a basis for the resumption of negotiations on the UN plan for a bicommunal, bizonal federation in Cyprus.

Mr Annan's Special Representative, Professor Han Sun Joo, meanwhile was holding talks in Nicosia. Their objective of achieving a meeting between Mr Clerides and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr Rauf Denktash, was also the focus of discussions between the British mediator, Sir David Hannay, and the US Secretary of State, Mrs Madeleine Albright.

Mrs Albright has placed Cyprus high on the US list of priorities. She also discussed Cyprus with the Dutch Foreign Minister, Mr Hans van Mierlo, representing the EU presidency, and the EU Commission Vice President, Sir Leon Brittan. They agreed that the UN should play the leading role in the search for a settlement.

Although local tension created by Turkey's hostile reaction to the missile deal has eased, massive cancellations of European tourist booking's have" alarmed hoteliers and tour operators on both sides of the dividing Green Line, delivering a blow to the buoyant Greek Cypriot economy and driving the ailing Turkish Cypriot economy towards Increased dependence on Turkey.

AFP reports from Nicosia: The UN is to make a formal complaint to the Cyprus government after protesters hurled abuse at the senior UN military commander on the island.

Mr Waldemar Rokoszewski, spokesman for the UN Force in Cyprus (Unficyp), said the incident on Saturday at a checkpoint on the Green Line violated signed agreements.

The Unficyp commander, Brig Gen Ahti Toimi Paavali Vartiainen, and a group of 15 people were harassed as they arrived at a checkpoint to cross into the Turkish occupied north.

Greek Cypriot demonstrators who had gathered at the checkpoint to dissuade tourists from visiting the north shouted abuse and attacked the general's vehicle.

"This is a violation of the status of the first agreement between the government of the republic and the UN in 1965 which provides for complete freedom of movement for Unficyp personnel", Mr Rokoszewski said.

Turkey invaded northern Cyprus in 1974 after a coup in Nicosia. The Turkish Cypriots set up a breakaway state in 1983.