Denktash rejects UN pressures and attacks EU as Cyprus talks resume amid blackout


CYPRUS: A third round of face-to-face talks between President Glafcos Clerides of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr Rauf Denktash, opened this week with the aim of reaching a settlement to reunify the divided island by June.

Mr Clerides and Mr Denktash met for 75 minutes late on Tuesday night at the disused Nicosia airport in the UN-controlled buffer zone.

The talks are surrounded by a strict news blackout and the two leaders, who have met 23 times since January, have agreed on a premise than "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

However, sources close to the talks say that neither leader has budged from entrenched positions. They say both sides are now under pressure to speed up the process in the face of concern in the UN Security Council and in the EU.

Earlier this week, the UN special envoy, Mr Alvaro de Soto, said the two leaders needed to show a "sense of urgency, of political determination, flexibility and a spirit of give and take".

And he added: "I think they both realise that if this window of opportunity is not seized, then they will have a lot to answer for."

Many observers see the talks as a last chance to reunite the island before the EU accepts the internationally-recognised Republic of Cyprus as a member. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied over a third of the island.

Before the talks resumed in Nicosia this week, Mr Denktash dismissed as "unacceptable" an appeal from the UN Security Council to both sides to speed up the talks, and he accused the EU of interfering by encouraging intransigence on the Greek Cypriot side.

Last week, the Enlargement Commissioner, Mr Guenter Verheugen, said the next round of EU expansion would probably go ahead by mid-2004 with Cyprus, with or without a settlement. Blaming the Turkish side for the lack of progress, he said: "It is quite clear that the Greek \ side is taking a positive and constructive approach to the process."

Earlier this year, Gen Hilmi Ozok, commander of Turkish land forces, visited northern Cyprus and demanded "the creation of two sovereign states".

He added threateningly that the Turkish armed forces "have the power and determination" to achieve Mr Denktash's goals. However, Mr Verheugen said last weekend he would not be surprised if Turkey suddenly unblocked the talks.

"Turkey negotiates a bit like the former Soviet Union: for months and years nothing happens," he said. "And suddenly overnight a breakthrough decision is taken."

Sources close to the talks say the Mr Clerides and the Greek Cypriots want a settlement based on internationally-accepted UN resolutions providing for a bizonal, bicommunal federation forming a single, demilitarised federated state.

Under these proposals, the vice-president would be Turkish Cypriot whenever a Greek Cypriot is elected president.

However, the sources say Mr Denktash and the Turkish Cypriots insist on a confederation of two states only loosely linked by a central administration, and on recognition for his breakaway state, which is recognised only by Turkey.

The sources say Mr Denktash is insisting also on retaining at least 33 per cent of the island, and on separate sovereignties and separate nationalities.

Mr Verheugen now points out that there are two options - either a peace settlement this year allowing the EU to admit a united Cyprus, or the conclusion of accession talks with a divided island.