- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

NICOSIA, Cyprus Banner headlines here proclaim a "Crucial Week" or "Last Pitch Effort" in the search for permanent peace in the Eastern Mediterranean.

But hope for agreement on the future of divided Cyprus was virtually dashed Tuesday, when Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash was flown to a hospital in Turkey, two months after heart surgery in New York.

Before leaving the island, Mr. Denktash described the latest U.N. plan for Cypriot power-sharing as contrary to the interests of the Turkish Cypriots.

The plan's proposed Turkish territorial concessions and a new migration on Cyprus, he said, are "against humanity, against justice. We cannot pay this price, nor we will pay it."

The European Union, at a summit in Copenhagen this week, is expected to invite 10 European and Mediterranean countries, including the internationally recognized Greek Cyprus, to join the club starting in 2004.

The summit also serves as a venue where the U.N. plan on Cyprus will be discussed.

On the other hand, Turkey which backs the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has been warned it should not expect a firm date for the EU to consider its membership application.

One diplomatic report said, "Without that date Turkey will not be amenable to anything."

Two days before the Copenhagen summit, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Islamist Justice and Development Party, which won last month's Turkish parliamentary election, accused the European Union of having a double standard in treating candidates.

"The fact that Turkey has not obtained a negotiating date is a double standard itself," he said.

Some diplomats expect what one calls "a crisis situation" if the European Union accepts the Greek-speaking portion of Cyprus with an accession date in 2004 without setting a date to consider Turkey's application.

EU officials insist that the admission of Cyprus is not linked to the island's internal problems.

The Turkish portion of the island did not participate in the negotiations and its leaders criticized the European Union's attitude and the latest U.N. plan for a Cyprus settlement.

The United States and Great Britain have intensified diplomatic efforts aimed mainly at defusing the Greco-Turkish tension, suggesting a date for Turkish membership and persuading the Cypriots to accept the U.N. plan.

U.S. officials hope that a solution in Cyprus would lead to an easing of tension in the Aegean Sea, sprinkled with some 3,000 Greek islands. Turkey claims the Aegean is part of the Anatolian continental shelf and wants to redraw the dividing line.

EU member countries generally feel that although Turkey has made significant progress in human rights, its prison conditions are unsatisfactory and its political system does not conform to European standards.

Several editorials in Turkey have accused the European Union of delaying tactics. Istanbul's Cumhuriyet daily said, "The one-sided relations between Turkey and the EU will continue; Turkey will be offered some carrots but will be kept at the door; If possible, Cyprus will be taken away from Turkey as well."

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