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Media Watch 2004

30 January 2004
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Menelaos Hadjicostis
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 30 January 2004.
Talat vows to work with Ankara on solution


MEHMET Ali Talat vowed to work closely with Turkey for a swift Cyprus solution to spare Ankara from the diplomatic problem of a divided island joining the EU as his new administration won a vote of confidence in the Turkish Cypriot “parliament” this week.

“The most important thing is to find a solution till May 1, 2004,” said the Turkish Cypriot “Prime Minister” on his return from Ankara on Wednesday.

“The Greek Cypriot side will join the EU on May 1 and if we fail to find a solution by this date, Turkey will face serious obstacles such as its own EU process,” Talat added.

Tatat may not entirely be Ankara’s lap dog, but he’s fully aware of who’s calling the shots.

And even if his views on the Annan plan may differ from Ankara’s, he has been extremely careful not to tip his hand on the UN blueprint lest he incur the wrath of Ankara eager to get the ball rolling again on settlement talks.

Not important

Asked what he considers to be non-negotiable on the Annan plan, Talat said his views aren’t important given the fact that there more “players” involved in the process.

“I cannot say what our conditions are on the Annan plan for the time being because we have to say them at the negotiating table,” said Talat.

Talat even softened his stance on Rauf Denktash’s role as chief Turkish Cypriot negotiator in settlement talks.

Despite strong pre-election opposition to keeping the veteran leader in charge of talks for the Turkish Cypriot side, Talat suggested Denktash’s presence may not matter all that much, since everyone would have to bend to the will of Ankara.

“It is wrong to say that this job could not be done since there is a person (Denktash) in this process who has become the symbol of non-solution,” said Talat.
There was little chance of Talat’s administration losing a vote of confidence in “parliament,” to plunge the north into crisis and risk spoiling Ankara’s plans for a swift resumption of talks - a development that Ankara feels would go a long way in persuading EU chiefs to give it a date for starting its own accession talks.

Twenty six “deputies” voted for the two-party coalition, 18 against and six from Mustafa Akinci’s Peace and Democracy Movement abstained.

Crucial

And as Talat pointed out, a deal by May 1 is seen as crucial in both occupied Nicosia and Ankara so that Turkey to avoid finding itself in sticky situations if only the government-controlled areas joins the EU.

“When we take all these issues into consideration, we have to find a solution to the Cyprus problem by May,” said Talat.

Talat appeared negative on Kofi Annan acting as arbitrator in talks to “fill in blanks” on the blueprint if negotiating time runs out or the two sides can’t agree.

But he was careful not speak out on speculation of a possible return of Alvaro de Soto in the role of UN mediator in talks.

Clashed

This clashed with Akinci’s view that De Soto’s return would be a plus to the time-pressed talks since the Peruvian diplomat - distrusted in some quarters for his handling of talks at the December, 2002 Copenhagen EU summit - knows the issue inside-out.

Akinci is against keeping talks open-ended, preferring instead a firm deadline, so that a deal would be set to simultaneous referenda in both communities to meet the May 1 target date."