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Cyprus Mail: Press Review in English, 98-02-26

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From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Thursday, February 26, 1998

Blair letter is 'blackmail'

BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair's letter of congratulations to President Clerides, which also referred to the S-300 missiles and Turkish Cypriot participation in EU accession talks, dominated the front pages.

Simerini described the contents of the letter, as "British blackmail" on the missiles. The leaking of the letter constituted a clear message from Britain about its intended stance during Cyprus EU accession talks. The Cyprus government spokesman "diplomatically" avoided confirming the contents of the letter.

Cancellation of the missile purchase would have a demoralising effect on Greek Cypriots for two reasons, the paper said. First, it would establish the view that Turkey has complete control of this region and second that Hellenism was becoming a satellite of Turkey.

Phileleftheros believed that the EU was attempting to turn the participation of the Turkish Cypriots in the accession talks into a major issue. However, the biggest problem faced by Britain was Turkey's and Rauf Denktash's flat refusal to discuss the matter.

Many EU member countries favoured the option of delaying the start of substantive accession talks, which would officially begin on March 31, until June. By this time, it was hoped that Turkey-EU relations would have improved.

Agon believed that most of the matters raised in Blair's letter would be settled in the next 20 days during which time Clerides would be meeting Sir David Hannay, Blair and Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. As regards the participation of Turkish Cypriots in accession talks, the final proposal would be made by the Cyprus government.

Haravghi said two words could describe Blair's letter - "congratulations.... reciprocate". It said Blair had bluntly requested Turkish Cypriot participation as equals in accession talks. The government spokesman dismissed this, and said that Blair's reported demand for the cancellation of the missile purchase was a "figment of the imagination".

The paper noted that in the election campaign Clerides had put a gloss on the "international interest" for Cyprus which, in reality, focused exclusively on the Turkish Cypriot participation and cancellation of the missile order.

Alithia reported that Edek would be given two ministries in the new cabinet - defence and education - but two matters remained unresolved: who would be given education and whether health minister Christos Solomis would be replaced New Horizons leader Nicos Koutsou?

Machi claimed that there was 'civil war' within the ranks of Diko as those supporting co-operation with Akel were firmly in control. This group had thwarted efforts aimed at bringing the rebels back to the party, preferring the "deathly embrace of Akel".

© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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