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Cyprus Reunification Process Suffers Setbacks - 2003-06-05

A solution to the Cyprus issue seems further away, following two developments this week.

The Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, announced Wednesday that he will reject a European Union aid package, if it is channeled through the internationally recognized, Greek-led Cyprus government.

The aid package would provide about $14 million to Mr. Denktash's cash-strapped enclave, which is recognized as an independent country only by Turkey.

Mr. Denktash dismissed the aid offer as an attempt to force him to, "submit to the internationally recognized Cypriot government."

The decision comes after hopes were raised of an end to the 29-year division of Cyprus as part of that government's entry into the European Union, planned for next year. But reunification talks collapsed in March, when Mr. Denktash refused to accept a United Nations peace plan.

His position led to unprecedented demonstrations against him in Northern Cyprus.

Even after that setback, the dividing line between Northern Cyprus and the rest of the island was opened to ordinary civilian traffic for the first time last month, raising hopes that there still might be progress on reunification. But there has been none.

The rejection of the EU offer by Rauf Denktash came as no surprise to Greek-Cypriots. The former foreign minister, Yanakkis Cassolulides, condemned the move.

"He again puts on the front the aim of his policy to have his so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus recognized," he said. "And, therefore, whatever measure is taken, which does not take into account this recognition that he is seeking, he opposes. This is detrimental to the efforts to reach a settlement."

Also this week, the British special envoy for Cyprus resigned, and the British government said he will not be replaced, at least for the moment. The envoy David Hannay, had been in his post for seven years.

The United Nations special Envoy for Cyprus, Alvero De Soto, has also returned to his office in New York, although he will continue to work on the issue.