Turkey willing to let UN complete Cyprus plan
DAVOS: Turkey took a further step towards a possible Cyprus peace settlement on Saturday by expressing willingness to let UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan bridge any final gaps in a blueprint for reuniting the island.
In what could be a major advance in the decades-old dispute, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said after talks with Annan that Ankara could consent to the UN chief “filling in the blanks” on unresolved issues in the endgame of negotiations.
“If the Greek Cypriot administration in the south accepts the secretary-general to fill in the blanks, then we as a guarantor country, as far as Turkey is concerned, would accept him to do that,” Erdogan told the news conference at the World Economic Forum.
But he said he would prefer the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to settle all outstanding issues without leaving blanks. He asked Annan to appoint a new impartial mediator to try to resolve the Cyprus dispute but drew a cool response. The UN chief told reporters he was encouraged by Turkey’s willingness to see stalled peace talks resume with the aim of reaching a settlement on the divided island before Cyprus joins the European Union on May 1.
But he stopped short of saying Ankara had met his conditions for reviving negotiations that failed last year and deflected the idea of a new mediator.
Diplomats said Erdogan’s call appeared aimed at sidelining UN special representative Alvaro de Soto, who has clashed with hardline Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in the past. But Annan felt there was no time to bring in a new figure. The UN reunification blueprint calls for power-sharing and a redrawing of a boundary created after a Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek Cypriot coup.
Outstanding issues include the exact apportionment of territory between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, the settlement of refugees, a Greek and Turkish military presence after reunification, mechanisms to resolve constitutional disputes and the status of Turkish settlers in northern Cyprus.
Erdogan is to meet Denktash in Ankara on Sunday and President George W. Bush at the White House next Wednesday.
“I have indicated that my good offices are still open if the parties were to declare the will and to demonstrate the will to want a settlement,” Annan told reporters.
“I have always had a very good facilitator working with me. We have been assisted in the past by representatives of several governments, notably the United Kingdom and the United States. And of course, if we were to resume the efforts, I would want to continue with a good facilitator and accept support from all countries that are interested in the process,” he said. —Reuters