Cyprus and EU wish for political solution before 1 May 2004
Nicosia, Jun 17 (CNA) The European Union and the Cyprus Republic have expressed willingness to work for a settlement of the island's political problem before 1 May 2004.
Speaking after a meeting here today with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Gunter Verheugen stressed that ''the door is still open'' for the Turkish Cypriots, adding that it is up to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and Ankara to seize the opportunity to solve the Cyprus problem before 1 May 2004, when Cyprus will officially enter the EU.
President Papadopoulos said that during his ''interesting, useful and friendly meeting'' with Commissioner Verheugen he assured him that his government will make every effort to find a Cyprus settlement before 1 May 2004.|
Referring to the meeting with Papadopoulos, Verheugen said he was pleased that ''we are in full agreement as far as the political situation of the island is concerned'', noting that ''President Papadopoulos made it very clear that his commitment is clear that Cyprus wants a solution and he is prepared to discuss the Kofi Annan plan and to find and solution build on that.''
He added that today's message for the Turkish Cypriots is that ''the door is still open. And both sides, the EU an the Republic of Cyprus, would to everything to make it possible that the door is used''.
''It is now a decision by Mr. Denktash and his people, and his friends in Ankara to use the window of opportunity before 1 May 2004,'' he said.
The EU commissioner added he was very sad that the opportunity was missed and the Turkish Cypriots are now the victims ''because if they can not find a political solution here, there is no way to enjoy the benefits of membership in the European Union and that will certainly not improve the conditions of life in the northern part of Cyprus''.
President Papadopoulos said ''We agreed that we prefer a united Cyprus to accede to the EU. And as we are concerned we want to stress to our Turkish Cypriot compatriots that the door is open. We will do everything possible to find a solution before 1 May 2004.''
He added during the meeting he had the opportunity to express the appreciation of the Cyprus people to Verheugen ''for his right positions on the Cyprus problem all these years.''
''It is not an exaggeration to say that he is one of the important factors that led to the successful completion of the accession negotiations of Cyprus with the EU,'' Papadopoulos said.
Answering to questions concerning the package of measures for the Turkish Cypriots announced by the Cyprus government taking into consideration the negative stance by the Denktash regime, Papadopoulos said that ''they are implemented smoothly and effectively.''
Verheugen, who is on his first visit to Cyprus after the signature of the Accession Treaty, expressed his gratitude to Cyprus President, government, parliament and people for the close cooperation over the last years that led to the achievement of ''a dramatic change.''
''Who would have believed some years ago that we would be here and could tell you that whatever happens Cyprus will be a full member of the EU the 1st May 2004? It is really a historical achievement and it was due to the strong efforts which the people of Cyprus made as well as the strong preparation and implementation,'' Veheugen said.
After his meeting with President Papadopoulos, Verheugen visited House President Demetris Christofias. The meeting was followed by a meeting with Cyprus' Chief Negotiator with the EU Takis Hadjidemetriou.
He will also attend a working lunch with the House of Representatives, that is political leaders, members of the European Affairs Committee, members of the Convention on the Future of Europe and observers at the European Parliament.
In the afternoon he will meet with former President of the Republic Glafcos Clerides and will participate in a roundtable meeting with Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot employers' organisations and trade unions.
Later on, the European official will visit the UNDP/EU Omerye project in the presence of Nicosia Mayor Michalakis Zambelas, and will address a gathering organised by the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry to be attended by representatives of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.
In the evening, he will meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgios Iacovou and attend a dinner hosted in his honour by the Cypriot Minister.
Tomorrow, Verheugen will cross into the Turkish occupied areas and in the afternoon he will depart for Brussels, following a press conference in Nicosia.
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY