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Cyprus Talks End Without Substantive Progress - 2002-10-05

Two days of talks in New York between the leaders of the Greek and Turkish communities on divided Cyprus ended Friday without any substantive movement toward a settlement. But U.N. officials say the effort to reunite the divided island nation has not collapsed and there are some encouraging signs.

U.N. officials met with Greek Cypriot president Glafkos Clerides and the long-time leader of the Turkish Cypriots, Rauf Denktash, with limited expectations. What has emerged from these talks is not considered a breakthrough. But the two sides have pledged to continue talking and will meet again with Secretary-General Kofi Annan sometime in November, after elections in Turkey.

Greece and Turkey are major players in the Cypriot dispute.

The Cypriots, meantime, have agreed to set up two committees of legal experts, who will be meeting throughout October to discuss what treaties and laws will apply to a reunited Cyprus.

U.N. special envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, notes that none of the main points or issues of a future settlement will be discussed in those committees. But the fact that they are being set up at all and that the two Cypriot leaders have agreed to meet again is being presented as another "window of opportunity."

Mr. de Soto, reading a message from the Secretary-General, indicated the difficulty of forging a final settlement, saying there is no simple solution. "For this reason a comprehensive settlement has to be a complex, integrated, legally binding and self-executing agreement, where the rights and obligations of all concerned are clear, unambiguous, and not subject to further negotiations."

The Cypriots have been working for a long time on the problem. Cyprus has been effectively partitioned since 1974. The Turkish community some years later, set up an independent state in northern Cyprus, which only Turkey recognizes.

The Greek Cypriots are racing against a deadline. The European Union meets December 12 to consider a Cypriot application for membership. Turkey has warned if Cyprus as a whole is admitted, it would consider annexing northern Cyprus.

Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, does not recognize Mr. Clerides as the president of the entire island, and has insisted that Mr. Clerides not be allowed to enter into agreements or speak for the whole country.

Meanwhile, Mr. Denktash will be undergoing heart surgery in New York Monday for a longstanding cardiac problem. His spokespeople say he will be up and around soon enough and fit for his next meeting with Mr. Clerides in November.