Confusion on Cyprus negotiations increases just three days before Turkish PM’s visit to Washington
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan asked U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Saturday to appoint a new impartial mediator to try to resolve the Cyprus dispute but drew a cool response. Annan told reporters he was encouraged by Erdogan’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.
“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.
“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.
In a written statement, the UN states:
“The Secretary-General was encouraged by the constructive exchange he had today with the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the subject of Cyprus, in which the Prime Minister indicated his government’s strong desire for the Turkish Cypriots to resume talks with the Greek Cypriots with a view to resolving outstanding issues by 1 May.
The Secretary-General told the Prime Minister he would study his position carefully. He also indicated that his good offices were still open if the parties were to demonstrate the will to conclude, with UN assistance, an agreement, including the holding of referenda, by 1 May”.
Erdogan, who is New York today and on Wednesday he meets with President George Bush in Washington D.C., told journalists after meeting Annan at the World Economic Forum in Davos:
“We want an impartial state to play the role of mediator, which would be trusted by both sides and able to follow the process from the start to the finish.”
A diplomat close to the talks said the Turkish idea looked like an attempt to evade accepting Annan’s peace plan and give the United States, Ankara’s close ally, a central role to devise a solution more favorable to the Turkish Cypriots.
Under international pressure to help resolve the decades-old problem to advance its own bid for EU membership talks later this year, Turkey has signaled in the past that it would like Washington to play the role of mediator. Erdogan is to meet President Bush Turkey’s political and military leaders on Friday threw their weight behind a resumption of peace talks that broke down early last year.
Asked about Annan’s call for both Turkish and Greek Cypriots to hold a referendum on his peace plan for the divided island, Erdogan said there could be no referendum until there was a peace agreement accepted by both sides.
But if there were an agreement, he added, the referendum should take place before May 1 if possible.
US reacted fast to the news. On Friday State Department’s Spokesman Adam Ereliissued a statement welcoming “Turkey’s support for the resumption of the UNSecretary General’s Good Offices Mission” regarding Cyprus.
“We believe that all parties should meet the Secretary General’s
requirements as soon as possible and recommence negotiations on the basis of the Annan plan by agreeing to finalize the plan and put it to referenda by a date certain,” Ereli continued. “We continue to encourage all parties to take these steps.”
Secretary of State Powell, called Foreign Minister of Greece George Papandreou and asked him to put pressure on President Papadopoulos. Speaking to the reporters traveling with him to Georgia, Powell said:
I have just got off the phone a little while ago with Foreign Minister Papandreou, talking about Cyprus. Some movement has occurred in the last twenty-four hours: statements made by the Turkish National Security Council, which I found forthcoming. And I was talking to Foreign Minister Papandreou, who s on the campaign trail, about the need for flexibility on the part of the Greek Cypriots, President Papadopolous in order to make sure that we can make every effort to try to solve the Cyprus problem before 1 May EU accession of Cyprus, and on the basis of Kofi Annan s plan. And we re all pushing in every way that we can do to see if we can achieve that goal”
Cypriot government said it was not aware of a major breakthrough in the Turkish stance that would help a deal along. Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iacovou said Turkey’s statement that it was ready to negotiate with reference to the U.N. peace plan did not make clear Ankara’s level of commitment.
“Essentially this does not add anything to what was previously said… It’s a tactical move without actually giving anything,” Iacovou told Cyprus radio.
Iacovou said “a reference point’ is very vague and doesn’t really mean much. If they wanted to give it some credence they would call it a basis for negotiations,” he said.
Turkey’s powerful National Security Council (MGK) said talks should reflect “realities on the island.”