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U.N. hopes for Cyprus settlement

NICOSIA, Cyprus -- A settlement of the issues separating the communities in Cyprus is possible in the next six months, a senior United Nations envoy has said.

"I am feeling very hopeful. I think a solution is possible in the next six months and there is a determination by the two leaders to reach it," said Alvaro de Soto, the U.S. secretary-general's special adviser on Cyprus.

De Soto ended a four-day visit to the country by attending the first face-to-face meeting between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders in more than four years.

The Greek Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides travelled a few miles north across the divided city of Nicosia on Wednesday to visit Rauf Denktash, leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot republic.

Turkey and Cyprus: A violent history 

Shouting "welcome," a group of Turkish Cypriots released white balloons and two white doves into the air to greet Clerides as he crossed into the north.

The surprise dinner arrangement followed a meeting on Tuesday between the two leaders in Nicosia, where they agreed to launch a new round of face-to-face talks next month on the island's reunification.

They also promised to negotiate until a comprehensive settlement is reached.

Denktash had previously insisted he would not negotiate directly with Clerides without international recognition of his breakaway state.

Turkey, Greece, and the major Western powers have all expressed hopes that the new talks will lead to a settlement on an island divided since Turkey invaded in 1974, following a short-lived coup by supporters of union with Greece.

The talks have been given increased significance because Cyprus is expected to join the European Union by 2003, but Turkey, the only country that recognises Denktash's government, opposes the move.

In Turkey, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said he was pleased Clerides and Denktash had "met face to face, in their own country, as two neighbours."

"A dialogue like this has the potential to open certain doors," Ecevit told Reuters.

Denktash wants a loose federation of two states, with separate representation in the EU, and with the two communities living separately.

Clerides sees two fairly independent entities joined under one federal administration.

Denktash walked out of U.N.-sponsored indirect talks with Clerides last year after demanding recognition of his state and said he would only attend more talks if there was an end to Cyprus' negotiations about joining the EU .

Clerides "is ready to face any scenario presented by Denktash, provided the settlement sought is based on the relevant Security Council resolutions," his spokesman, Michalis Papapetrou, told Reuters on Monday.

Michael Triantafyllides, Cyprus' former chief justice, said on Monday that a settlement "cannot contravene the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights."

Turkey has refused to implement the judgments, which found it guilty of ethnic cleansing and other human rights violations in northern Cyprus, branded the breakaway state illegal and support the right of the refugees to return.

Triantafyllides said the Council of Europe "will have no option but to expel Turkey if it continues to reject the judgment of its Court."


• Turkey warms to EU defence force
December 4, 2001
• Cyprus leaders agree fresh talks
December 4, 2001

• Republic of Cyprus
• Turkish republic of northern Cyprus

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