Cypriots in last-ditch talks

Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders will meet on Thursday in a last-ditch effort to reunify Cyprus before the country's 1 May accession to the European Union.

    Power-sharing tops the agenda of reunification talks

    The talks between Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash are slated to begin in the UN-manned buffer zone at 10:00am (0700 GMT), with power-sharing arrangements expected to top the agenda. 

    The two men will meet several times a week with the aim of concluding their negotiations by the end of March.

    There are several main issues the Greek Cypriot side would like to raise for discussion in efforts to "improve" the UN blueprint, according to "talking points" submitted to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in New York last week.

    Papadopoulos will focus on the "functionality and workability" of a settlement and try to ensure constitutional arrangements are compatible, as far as possible, with EU law.

    Settlers issue

    Another cause of concern is the number of settlers from mainland Turkey in the Turkish-occupied north who will remain on the island.

    Greek Cypriots want their number reduced to a minimum and their flow into Cyprus stopped. 

    They are also worried about being left to pay billions of dollars for a solution and want to work out the exact cost and see where the money is going to come from. 

    Rauf Denktash (left) will demand 
    permanent presence of Turkish
    troops on the island 

    The Greek Cypriots have also told Annan that core issues of
    refugees, property and territory will be entered into if the other side raises them.

    According to official sources, Denktash will demand a permanent presence of Turkish troops on the island and try to reduce the number of Greek Cypriots living under a Turkish Cypriot administration. 

    He also wants strong powers for the Turkish Cypriot constituent state at the expense of the central federal government.

    If the talks fail, only the Greek-speaking southern part of the island will be admitted to the EU, leaving the Turkish-Cypriots isolated with Turkey as their only international ally.

    Pressure from Annan

    The two sides grudgingly agreed under pressure from Annan last week to resume their talks.

    They have until March 22 to resolve their differences. If not,
    Turkey and Greece will step forward in a bid to push them forward. 

    If that fails to secure a deal by March 29, the two sides have agreed that Annan will "fill in the blanks" to produce the draft accord that will be voted on in separate referendums in April. 

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the eastern Mediterranean island's northern third in response to a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the country with Greece.

    SOURCE: AFP


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