Image: UN special adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, left, with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, right.
Petros Karadjias  /  AP
UN special adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, left, talks to members of the media after his meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, right, in Turkish occupied Nicosia on Wednesday.
updated 2/20/2004 1:25:01 PM ET 2004-02-20T18:25:01

Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders resumed negotiations Friday on reuniting their island while anxious citizens carefully watched the developments with concern about compromises that might be required.

Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said the second day of talks, which lasted under two hours, focused on technical issues such as where the government buildings of a new state would be, how many judges there would be at the supreme court as well as the flag and anthem.

Neither side indicated that major points of disagreement were discussed Friday about the broad reunification plan, drawn up by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Both sides face intense international pressure to reach an agreement.

Denktash and his Greek Cypriot counterpart, President Tassos Papadopoulos, have agreed to hammer out a deal by March 22 and have staked out tough positions in the talks. If they fail, Turkish and Greek officials will join the talks; and if that does not succeed, Annan is to fill in the blanks before the agreement goes before a referendum on the island.

May 1 deadline
The talks aim to reunite the island by May 1, the date Cyprus enters the European Union either whole or divided. The negotiations have sparked unprecedented optimism, but also fear on the island of what compromises could be required if a deal is made.

The two sides are deeply divided on such issues as the number of Greek Cypriot refugees who may return to the north, how many Turkish soldiers would remain on the island, and the amount of power the central government would have, topics which have scuttled previous talks.

On Friday, Papadopoulos told reporters that Denktash raised points that were outside the framework of the Annan plan “and cannot consequently be considered.”

Papadopoulos raised the same objection during the first round Thursday.

Asked if there was more progress Friday, Papadopoulos said: “There are no better or worse days. The best day will be when the talks end.”

U.N. officials said after Denktash left, Papadopoulos stayed briefly with U.N. envoy Alvaro de Soto but declined to comment on what the private meeting covered.

Denktash said the next meeting would be Tuesday.

Signs of trouble
Even with a deal, there were signs it could run into trouble when presented in separate referenda to Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots in April.

A poll published Friday in the Greek Cypriot daily newspaper Simerine found that 61 percent of Greek Cypriots would reject the U.N. reunification plan if a referendum was carried out today.

Image: Turkish Cypriot men play backgammon
Harun Ucar  /  AP
Turkish Cypriot men play backgammon at a coffee shop in the town of Pyla, Cyprus, on Tuesday. The town of Pyla, the only major mixed Turkish-Greek town on the divided island, could soon become a role model if Cyprus is unified.

It found that 27 percent were for accepting the plan while 12 percent said they did not know or did not reply. Asked whether the plan ensured a viable and lasting settlement, 67 percent said no.

The poll, conducted by telephone with 800 randomly chosen Greek Cypriots over 18, was carried out by the Cyprus Communications Services Bureau. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

De Soto had appealed to both sides to maintain a news blackout on the discussions, but Denktash said the people needed to be informed to make a decision.

“I want people to go to this referendum knowing everything about the plan so that nobody can blame anyone in the end,” Denktash said. “Since they are making us negotiate the Annan plan with pressure, we will try to change the parts we can. ... If not, we have to tell our people what this plan brings and takes away.”

EU Expansion Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, who met with Denktash and Papadopoulos, said several EU officials would be in Cyprus through the coming weeks “to offer their expertise.”

“For us it is a matter of higher priority to help find a solution,” Verheugen said.

Sticky issue for EU
If the island remains divided after May 1, the EU will face the sticky issue of a member state that does not control the northern third of its territory. Aspiring EU candidate Turkey is worried that the 40,000 Turkish soldiers in the north could be considered as occupying EU territory.

Verheugen told reporters that the EU was ready to spend $330 million to help integrate Cyprus if it is unified, including $275 million in the north.

The leaders met at Nicosia’s old airport, once the island’s gateway to the world, but now an abandoned base, with an old, rusting passenger jet on a tarmac and a bombed out jet nearby in a grassy field.

Cinderblock buildings pockmarked with bullet holes are outside of the base, reminders of the 1974 fighting that led to the division of the island.

If the island is unified, there are plans to reopen the airport, which is only a five minute drive from Nicosia’s center.

Cyprus has been divided since a 1974 Turkish invasion that followed a short-lived coup by supporters of union with Greece.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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