NEW YORK (Reuter)–Richard Holbrooke–the US presidential emissary for Cyprus–said on Tuesday he supported European Union membership for the island nation.
"The economy of Cyprus demonstrates clearly that Cyprus is ready for membership," he told reporters after a meeting with Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides–a day before UN-sponsored talks open at a resort called Troutbeck–north of New York.
"I think Cyprus has a unique economic opportunity to be the Singapore of the Mediterranean," Holbrooke said. "When I say Cyprus I mean both communities. I hope that the people of both communities take advantage of this unique opportunity."
Holbrooke will not be attending the talks–the first face-to-face encounter in nearly three years between Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. Their purpose is to revive stalled negotiations on reuniting the divided island under a bi-communal–bi-zonal federation.
Clerides told reporters: "We’re going to mediate–we’re going to talk to find a solution and I think that any statemen’s made before we sit around the table are not helpful." Denktash–who met Holbrooke on Monday–has taken issue with the Nicosia’s government’s request to join the EU.
He told Reuters on Monday that if talks on EU membership got under way–"we shall start immediate negotiations with Turkey for the same kind of union with Turkey. And we shall stop all contacts with Greek Cypriots because that means there is no hope of a settlement."
Denktash is president of a Turkish Cypriot state proclaimed in 1983 but recognized only by Turkey. Cyprus has been virtually partitioned since 1974 when troops from Turkey took over the north of the island after a coup in Nicosia engineered by the military junta then ruling Greece.
Denktash said he regarded Wednesday’s talks with Glafcos Clerides only as "soundings" and that major issues should be left to subsequent rounds.
Denktash also made clear he holds fast to his demand for recognition of his community’s sovereign equality with the Greek Cypriots–whose administration is internationally recognized as the legitimate government of the entire island.
Cyprus has been virtually partitioned since troops from Turkey took over the north of the island in 1974 in reaction to a coup in Nicosia backed by the junta then ruling Greece.
Denktash–who refuses to recognize Clerides’s government as speaking for the whole of Cyprus–is president of a Turkish Cypriot state proclaimed in 1983 but recognised only by Turkey. The United Nations has been trying for decades to reunite the island as a bi-communal–bi-zonal federation.
Referring to UN-sponsored talks due to take place from July 9 to 13 at a rural resort called Troutbeck–90 miles north of New York city–Denktash said.
Noting he and Clerides last meet nearly three years ago in Nicosia–he added–"I couldn’t go half a mile to meet Clerides. And I had to come 3,000 miles for all this nonsense.’
"But I am glad I did because I got my digital camera," joked Denktash–an avid photographer who oddly delighted in demonstrating his latest acquisition.
The 73-year-old Denktash and Clerides–78–have known – and battled each other – for nearly half a century–since both were young London-trained barristers.