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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 16:55 GMT
Denktash warning on Cyprus optimism
Rauf Denktash (left) and Glafcos Clerides before the dinner in the Turkish-occupied Nicosia
Denktash (left) says the two sides are still far apart
The Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, has warned that it may be wrong to hope that Cyprus will be quickly reunited, despite a surprise thaw in personal relations with the Cypriot President, Glafcos Clerides.

The two leaders met twice this week, after a break of four years, and have agreed to restart talks on the future of the divided island on 16 January.

It is natural to hope this will be solved in one contact. But it is wrong to enter into this with such high expectations

Rauf Denktash

"People probably know how difficult the Cyprus dilemma is, that the two sides are at opposite poles," said Mr Denktash.

"It is natural to hope this will be solved in one contact, that it is on the road to resolution. But it is wrong to enter into this with such high expectations," he added.

Too much optimism could actually be harmful, he said.

The UN's special envoy to Cyprus, Alvara de Soto, has said the two leaders are determined to reach a settlement in six months.

The inclusion of Cyprus in the next wave of EU expansion, in 2004, is acting as a stimulus to resolve the 27-year-old dispute.


Turkish Cypriots greet Glafcos Clerides
Turkish Cypriots released doves to greet Mr Clerides

Mr Clerides became the first Greek Cypriot president to cross the United Nations-controlled buffer zone into the Turkish-occupied north of the island since its partition 27 years ago.

The excitement surrounding the dinner, in Mr Denktash's home, surpassed the news of the revival of the talks.

President Clerides was welcomed by a group of Turkish Cypriots who released white balloons and two white doves into the air.

But on his side of the island, he was criticised by Greek Cypriot opposition parties and refugee associations for visiting the north while refugees were prevented from returning to their homes there.


Critics said his move could also be interpreted as a step toward recognition of the breakaway state, which is only recognised by Turkey.

The EU has said the reunification of the Cyprus was not a precondition for joining.

This statement prompted a strong reaction from Turkey - another EU hopeful - which said it might annex the Turkish-held part of the island if Cyprus joined the EU while still divided.

Turkey still maintains around 35,000 troops in the northern part of the island.

The BBC's Emil Petrie
"A historic moment in the long and bitter dispute betwen the two sides of Cyprus"
See also:

04 Dec 01 | Europe
Cyprus veterans share chemistry
03 Dec 01 | Europe
Cyprus' quiet crisis
07 Dec 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Cyprus
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