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Cyprus Mail: Press Review in English, 99-12-14

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From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Tuesday, December 14, 1999

New era in Greco-Turkish relations

GREEK-TURKISH relations were entering a new phase in the wake of the EU candidacy status offered to Turkey in Helsinki, most papers predicted yesterday. Alithia said that the Helsinki summit's decision opened a new chapter in Greek-Turkish relations which would affect the Cyprus peace efforts. Greece's strategy for improving relations with Turkey was put on firm foundations on Friday, opening up new prospects, the paper said. Athens was determined to pursue this strategy further and Prime Minister Costas Simitis was hoping to be the first Prime Minister of an EU member-country to visit Turkey after the Helsinki summit. This new chapter in relations between the two countries was also welcomed by the Turkish political leadership. The road has opened for better relations with Greece, said President Suleyman Demirel, who added that the positive climate must be maintained. Prime Minister Ecevit said that there was a very good level of dialogue with Greece.

Haravghi focused on the part of Ecevit's statements about Cyprus, which was not very well received. Ecevit had said: Nobody should have the slightest doubt or fear, regarding Cyprus; any change is impossible. Before Turkey announced its acceptance of the EU invitation, Ecevit had spoken to Rauf Denktash, who had, reportedly, shown understanding for Turkey's stance. President Clinton welcomed Turkey's candidate status, which will have long-term benefits for EU members as well as the US.

Phileleftheros said that the US was encouraging Greece and Turkey to enter a dialogue for resolving their differences. The dialogue on technical issues between the two countries was to be stepped up, before the foreign ministers - George Papandreou and Ismail Cem - exchange visits and sign some form of agreement. This would be the first step towards upgrading the dialogue. Meanwhile, according to Athens press reports - Simitis had been pursuing a very specific strategy the objectives of which were: the improvement of relations with Ankara, the linking of Turkey to the EU and the promotion of a Cyprus settlement under the EU umbrella. Athens had abandoned the old thinking, which dictated that any improvement in Greek-Turkish relations depended on the situation in Cyprus. Simitis' strategists had decided that relations with Turkey should improve first, because this would have a positive effect on the Cyprus issue.

Simerini said that the Helsinki summit has sent Greece and Turkey to swim in the deep waters of Aegean. It was reference to the fact that negotiations on resolving the Aegean dispute were set to begin very soon, with US encouragement. The Americans believed that the Aegean and the Cyprus issue were part of the same package, which meant that negotiations on both should be held simultaneously.

Politis reported that Denktash was refusing to return for a second round of proximity talks scheduled for mid- January, opting for the Alonely road of negativity and intransigence. According to the paper, Denktash had taken his decisions on Friday afternoon when he had realised that Turkey would accept the EU invitation. Turkey's action had been described as betrayal of the Turkish Cypriots by Denktash's advisor, Mumtaz Soysal. Diplomatic sources could not rule out the possibility of a real crisis in relations between Denktash and the Turkish government over Helsinki.

To Tharros claimed that US diplomacy was working hard both in New York and Ankara in order to limit the bad climate created by the Helsinki decision. US presidential envoy Alfred Moses had met Denktash, while Clinton was expected to seek Ankara's help in order to improve the climate and get the Turkish Cypriot leader to attend a second round of proximity talks.

© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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