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Turkish Cypriots may pose threat to EU talks

   
Turkey\'s hard-won timetable for starting accession talks with the European Union could be threatened unless the new government can persuade the Turkish Cypriot leadership and hardliners at home to accept a United Nations plan to reunite Cyprus, officials and analysts warned yesterday.


In the absence of a settlement, the Greek Cypriots would enter the EU on their own and probably oppose the membership of Turkey, the Turkish Cypriots\' patron, for years to come. This is why europhiles on the Turkish mainland say the real disappointment of the Copenhagen summit was not a late start date for Turkish accession talks but the failure of Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, to sign the UN plan.



Cengiz Candar, a Turkish columnist, said that the new Turkish government, although committed to solving the Cyprus problem, had through inexperience \"wavered and left a lot of room for manoeuvre to Denktash and die-hards in Ankara who do not want a settlement\".

A western official was even more blunt: \"You can forget any politeness about Denktash: either he is overriden by the new government in Ankara or there will be no settlement.\"

Yasar Yakis, the foreign minister, said yesterday he expected a settlement would be reached by a final UN and EU deadline of February 28.

To achieve this, one official in Ankara had two pieces of advice for the newly elected Justice and Development party: \"They must not let Denktash use opposition within some sections of the Turkish military as an alibi for resisting a deal; they should also rearrange the bureaucracy so that it delivers the result they want.\"

While officials in the foreign ministry who deal with Cyprus are notoriously hawkish, the official described General Hilmi Ozkok, Turkey\'s new top military leader, as a democrat, unlikely to stand in the way of a deal agreed by the civilian authorities.

Although officially ill, Mr Denktash\'s decision to send to Copenhagen a hardliner who had not been involved in the UN talks was seen as further evidence by critics that he would prefer integration with Turkey to a deal requiring painful sacrifices on both sides.
  

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