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All Eyes On Cyprus As EU Summit Begins

by Ulrika Lomas,, Copenhagen

12 December 2002

As proceedings get underway in Copenhagen at the EU summit meeting bringing the Danish presidency to an end, intense diplomacy swirls around the bid of ten nations to be issued with a definitive invitation to join the Union in 2004. And nowhere does the diplomacy swirl more intensely than around Cyprus, Greece and Turkey.

After the United Nations presented Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders with a Mark 2 reunification plan yesterday, Rauf Denktash told an outdoor meeting in Nicosia that the revised plan did not address the Turkish Cypriot's key demand for sovereignty and recognition as a separate state. But then he was whisked off to hospital in Ankara with congestion of the lungs, and was expected to undergo a further operation. His counterpart Glafcos Clerides was less forthcoming, but departed for Copenhagen accompanied, in a last minute volte-face, by the leaders of the main Greek Cypriot parties - a sign perhaps the Greek Cypriot side is ready to sign up to some sort of deal in Copenhagen.

The Danish presidency says that it can deal with any officially appointed representative of the north, as long as Mr Denktash sends one. But expectations of a deal with the Turkish side hang on an unspoken presumption that the EU will give Turkey a firm start date for negotiations for its own accession before the current clas of 10 joins in 2004, in exchange for its acceptance of a less-than-perfect deal on Cyprus.

It is abundantly clear to everyone by now that the Greek Cypriot side has little or nothing to gain from the kind of deal that has been proposed; but that it will give in to international pressure as long as the price is right in terms of subsidy for the reconstruction of the ghost town of Famagusta and other districts likely to be returned to the Greek side under the deal.

The influence of the Americans on Turkey may be as decisive now as it was at the time of the original invasion, but in which direction is hard to calculate. George Bush desperately needs Turkey to support his putative invasion of Iraq; but then he just as desperately needs not to pick a fight with Europe, and a freeze following open US encouragement of Turkish recalcitrance over Cyprus would last an awful lot longer than US displeasure with Germany over Gerhardt Schroeder's anti-Americanism during his re-election campaign.

Everything is to play for in Copenhagen; but even Alvara de Soto, Kofi Annan's special representative, is said to have given up hope of getting more than an agreement to agree between the parties during the next 2 days. By then Cyprus would have received its invitation, and for the rest, who knows?

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