- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2000

Endless Cyprus talks?

A Turkish-Cypriot leader yesterday dismissed the current U.N.-sponsored talks as useless as long as the Greek-Cypriot side refuses to recognize its partner as a sovereign equal.

The talks are due to enter a fifth round Nov. 1, but Tahsin Ertugruloglu said they could be entering their "555th round" for all the good the talks are accomplishing.

"So long as the Greek-Cypriot government insists on being recognized as the government of all of Cyprus, we could be attending the 555th round," he told editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

Mr. Ertugruloglu is foreign and defense minister of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey and considered a breakaway entity by the rest of the world.

The Greek-Cypriot side is the internationally recognized government, although it has no control over the Turkish-Cypriot side with its 35,000 Turkish troops. Greek-Cypriots denounce the Turkish troops as invaders, while the Turkish-Cypriots praise them as protectors from Greek domination.

Osman Ertug, undersecretary for foreign and defense affairs, questioned whether the Greek-Cypriots are even serious about the talks.

"For them, the only reason they entered the talks is to clear the way for European Union membership. If they can show us to be the intransigent state, they can say, 'What else can we do?' " said Mr. Ertug, who accompanied Mr. Ertugruloglu on his Washington visit.

The European Union has invited Cyprus to join the trading bloc.

Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides insisted last week that he is serious about finding a solution to the division of the island in accord with U.N. resolutions that call for a single federal state.

The Turkish side is insisting on equal recognition in a confederated state of sovereign partners.

"[I am] not going to these negotiations in a negative disposition or with the aim of finding a pretext for the suspension of the talks," Mr. Clerides said last week after returning from the fourth round in New York.

"[I am] going to the talks with the aim of finding a solution to the Cyprus problem, within the framework of the U.N. resolutions, for the salvation of Cyprus from the great dangers threatening it."

The talks fell into confusion last week when U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan referred to the two sides as "the political equal of the other." He later assured Mr. Clerides that his statement was not meant to imply recognition of the Turkish government.

Mr. Ertugruloglu, who met with State Department officials this week, said he is trying to underscore his government's demand for equal status with the Greek-Cypriot side.

"The Greek-Cypriots pay only lip service to a federal settlement," he said. "They are not interested in a partnership of two equal states."

Hold on nominees

Sen. Robert C. Smith is holding up several diplomatic nominations to try to force the Clinton administration into demanding the release of an American held on espionage charges in Russia.

The New Hampshire Republican is also blocking the nominees over concerns about "severe security violations," said his spokeswoman, Karen Hickey.

She said she could not discuss specifics about the security concerns. The State Department has been embarrassed by a spate of security problems; a crackdown on violations led to the suspension of security clearances of the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Mr. Smith is most angered by the continued detention of Edmund Pope, a Pennsylvania businessman who has been lingering in a Moscow prison since April with his health failing.

The Center for Public Policy Analysis, a Washington think tank, is upset with the hold on the nominee for Laos, Douglas Alan Hartwick, a career Foreign Service Officer.

Philip Smith, the center's director, said Laos needs a U.S. ambassador to direct U.S. policy in a country that is "suffering from a deepening and expanding economic, political and security crisis."

"There is a view in some circles that the U.S. approach in Laos, in terms of the formulation and implementation of policy, has been shallow at best, and that a more thoughtful and careful approach may be necessary," he said.

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