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EU expresses regret over Cyprus talks, accession to go ahead 2003-03-11 10:36:51

By Nicos Bellos -- Brussels, Mar 11 (CNA) ? The European Commission expressed regret Tuesday that UN efforts to solve the Cyprus problem failed but confirmed that the accession process will go ahead as scheduled.

A statement by Enlargement Commissioner, Gunter Verheugen, read by his spokesman, Jean Christophe-Filori, said the Commission encourages all parties concerned, and, in particular Turkey, to strive to achieve a settlement.

At the same time, Filori said if there was no peace settlement when the EU executive reported in December 2004 on Turkey's own bid to open membership talks, it would be very difficult to recommend starting accession negotiations with Turkey.|

"The Commission regrets failure of UN efforts to solve the Cyprus problem and confirms accession process will go ahead as scheduled", the statement said.

"The Commission regrets that the efforts of the United Nations Secretary- General, Mr. Kofi Annan, to find a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem have not been successful", reminding that the Commission has "lent its full support to this process and recalls the willingness of the European Union to accommodate a settlement in line with the principles on which the EU is founded".

"While such a settlement was the preference of the European Union", Verheugen said, "the Commission confirms that the accession process will go ahead as foreseen according to the existing timetable. All the necessary preliminary legal steps have been taken to permit this".

The Commission notes the statement of the Secretary-General that his plan remains on the table and pledged the Commission's readiness "to assist any further efforts in this context. The Commission encourages all parties concerned, and, in particular Turkey, to strive to achieve a settlement".

It "expresses its solidarity with all Cypriots and acknowledges the courage with which the Turkish-Cypriots have expressed their European convictions. The Commission will continue to support projects in Cyprus to benefit both communities, to reduce economic disparities on the island and to build confidence between them", the statement concluded.

Replying to questions, Filori said that if there was still no peace settlement when the EU executive reported in December 2004 on Turkey's own bid to open accession talks, it would be very difficult to recommend starting negotiations.

"If by the time of the report at the end of 2004 there is still no settlement on Cyprus, we will be facing this rather weird situation where a candidate country knocking at the door does not recognise one of our own member states", he said.

"It appears difficult in this situation to envisage the start of accession negotiations with Turkey", Filori added.

Asked whether the EU would consider part of its territory under illegal occupation after Cyprus' accession, Filori said: ''Yes, we can look at things in that way. This occupation has always been considered illegal by the international community, including the EU. Nothing changes there".

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of the island's territory. The Republic of Cyprus is due to sign the Accession Treaty with the EU on 16 April 2003, together with nine other countries.

CNA/NB/MK/EC/GP/2003
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY

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