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Verheugen proposes donors' conference to support settlement
2003-01-24 14:07:49

by Nicos Bellos -- Brussels, Jan 23 (CNA) - European Commissioner on Enlargement Gunter Verheugen today proposed, with the full backing of Commission President Romano Prodi, a donors' conference to financially support a Cyprus settlement.

Addressing the European Parliament Committee for External Relations, Verheugen expressed the readiness of the European Commission to organise an international donor conference to provide financial support in the context of a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question.

Verheugen said that ''in this crucial phase of the UN negotiations aiming to reach a settlement in Cyprus, the international community should express solidarity'', noting that this meant ''it should be ready to support the cost linked to a political solution and the reconciliation of the two communities in Cyprus''.

He added that the EU itself was ready to provide considerable financial support as soon as a settlement is reached to help overcome economic disparities on the island and to prepare areas currently under Turkish occupation for EU membership as part of a reunited Cyprus.|

The Commission says in a press release that the international community's support would provide the necessary assurances and guarantees for the future of those persons affected by a comprehensive settlement.

It adds that the conference should be convened as soon as a settlement is reached and endorsed by the Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, and that as a first step the Commission would be prepared to make a needs assessment and to contact countries and international institutions, which are ready to contribute and to provide their expertise.

''The Commission underlines the strong preference expressed by the Copenhagen European Council for the accession of a united Cyprus to the EU and, with this in view, emphasises the importance of finalising a comprehensive settlement by February 28. It urges the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to seize this unique opportunity'', the statement concludes.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash are currently engaged in UN-led talks aimed at reaching a comprehensive settlement.

CNA/NB/RG/ΜΚ/2003
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY

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