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''Wonderful'', says British High Commissioner on crossings
2003-04-30 16:11:50

Nicosia, Apr 30 (CNA) -- British High Commissioner here Lyn Parker has welcomed as ''a wonderful thing'' the easing of restrictions on free movement which the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime announced last week, the first time the regime has made such a move to enable Greek and Turkish Cypriots to cross to and from the Turkish occupied part of the island.

Parker, stressing that this partial lifting of restrictions is no substitute for a solution, pointed out that this development could make a real contribution to a political settlement.

Commenting on the prospects of resuming the UN-led peace talks, he said London is waiting for this, noting that both communities may need some time to ponder after the collapse last month of the latest peace effort, and added that there are deadlines ahead for a solution and it is important and urgent that one is found.|

Invited by CNA to comment on the unprecedented movement of Cypriots to and from the occupied areas, Parker said ''it is a wonderful thing that Cypriots on both sides for the first time in many years have the chance to cross over.''

''I know that there are delays and it is frustrating to queue but the fact that people are able to go and see for themselves what conditions are like on the other side, that people are able to go back to the villages or communities they came from and see for themselves what life is like, I think that this is an extremely good thing,'' he added.

Parker said that ''this is not a substitute for a solution to the Cyprus problem clearly, but at the human level I think it is very important that people have the chance to see for themselves rather than through media what life is like, what happened to the communities they remembered.''

He said the crossings give the chance to young people, who have heard about these places and never had the chance to experience themselves, to see for themselves.

''I think that it would contribute, make a real contribution for making it easy for the two communities to work towards the settlement. It is not a substitute for that but on a human level I think it is a wonderful thing and I hope in the next couple of weeks the arrangements settle down and it becomes easier for people to come and go and it would become a more normal feature of life here on the island,'' Parker said.

Asked what Britain could do to help resume the peace talks, he said ''we are waiting, and I think that both sides perhaps need some time to assimilate what happened'' following the collapse of the talks in early March.

He noted that on the Greek Cypriot side, the government along with the Greek government have underlined publicly their continuing commitment to working on the basis of the UN proposals and their commitment to seek a settlement.

''I do think myself, that it remains important and urgent, I think we have some deadlines ahead, and in particular the 1st of May next year (when Cyprus joins the EU) and it would be tremendously good if despite the setback at The Hague, between now and then something would happen,'' he said, noting that such a development would enable a united island to join the EU in May 2004.

Referring to the collapse of the talks, he said the UN brought the procedure to a close at The Hague because it was clear that they could not take it forward and the British government along with others have strongly supported what the UN have been trying to do for many years.

''The UN remains ready to return at a stage when both sides are in a position to actually restart serious negotiations,'' he concluded.

Yesterday, nearly 30,000 Greek Cypriots crossed into the occupied areas and about 3,000 Turkish Cypriots into the southern government-controlled part of the island.


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