TURKISH Cypriot president Derviş Eroğlu pulled out of his planned visit to London last week because of a last-minute meeting with UN Cyprus representative Alexander Downer.
Mr Eroğlu was planning to visit London for a series of events between 7 and 12 November, but cancelled his plans to discuss the prospect of restarting Cyprus peace talks with Mr Downer.
After the meeting, Mr Eroğlu called on the Greek Cypriot leadership to drop all preconditions for reopening talks.
“We do not want to waste time,” he said. “This is a test of sincerity. Let us use the opportunity of Mr Downer’s time on the island to come to the table and pick up the negotiations where we left off.
“That is why I cancelled my planned visit to London. The Turkish Cypriot side is ready to return to negotiations immediately with a view to reaching a solution in the first quarter of 2014.”
Mr Downer, speaking after his hour-long meeting with the president, also spoke optimistically. He extended his stay on the island by 24 hours to hold further meetings with the Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis and the Turkish Cypriot negotiator Osman Ertuğ.
Last weekend Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan provoked a strong Greek reponse when he claimed “there is no country named Cyprus”.
He was quoted as saying on Sunday that the European Union made “a political decision” by not admitting the Republic of Cyprus into the bloc as “south Cyprus” in 2004.
He went on: “They (instead) admitted it as Cyprus. There is no country named Cyprus. There is the local administration of south Cyprus.”
Turkey does not recognise the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government and is the only country to recognise the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The Kathimerini newspaper quoted Greek foreign ministry spokesman Konstantinos Koutras as saying in response: “The Turkish Prime Minister’s disputing the very existence of the Republic of Cyprus should finally awaken the international community as to Turkey’s true intentions regarding the Cyprus issue. Any further comment on this is superfluous.”
Turkısh and Greek Cypriots last week signed a landmark deal to bridge a divide that predates the island’s political separation.
Under the agreement Cyprus’s two football associations have agreed to join forces and follow a “road map” towards full unity in the sport. But no firm details of the plans have emerged and the president of Turkish Cypriot football said the deal did not “satisfy” him.
It was signed on Tuesday at the Zurich headquarters of FIFA, world football’s governing body, by Cyprus Turkish Football Association (CTFA) president Hasan Sertoğlu and Cyprus Football Association (CFA) president Costakis Koutsokoumnis.
“We live in a world in which it is more difficult to unite than to divide, which means that today is all the more exceptional,” said UEFA president Michel Platini, who helped broker the agreement with his FIFA counterpart Sepp Blatter. “It is a historic moment for Cypriot football, and I would like to congratulate the presidents of the two associations, who have shown exemplary courage and perseverance.”
But in comments carried by Turkish Cypriot media on Tuesday evening, CTFA president Hasan Sertoğlu cast doubt on the draft agreement by commenting that it “did not meet our demands. We will continue our struggle to improve it.”
He continued: “The document’s content may not have satisfied us, but I have always said I will present it to my general assembly. We will continue work at that meeting – which will be held concurrently with a Greek Cypriot meeting – to resolve the missing points.”
Mr Sertoğlu said he objected to articles 1 and 4 of the agreement, but did not comment on what they contained.