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Social partners from two sides want to meet regularly
2003-06-17 13:44:52

Nicosia, Jun 17 (CNA) - Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot social partners met today in Nicosia with European Commissioner on Enlargement Gunter Verheugen and suggested that such meetings be held on a regular basis to promote the solution of various problems they face.

Speaking after the round table discussion, Verheugen said the process for a solution of the island's political problem should be revitalised so that a settlement is reached before May 2004, when Cyprus will become a full member of the EU, noting that the social partners agree that a solution along with accession would bring about strong benefits for both sides.|

''It was not only an interesting meeting. It was also a very important meeting because, to my knowledge, it was the first time that we had the organisation of the business community, the trade unions from both communities together in the same room, at the same table, discussing the future of Cyprus'', Verheugen said.

He added that he felt ''very encouraged after the meeting because it was clear that these people fully support the idea that we should not be complacent and think that they should maintain the momentum and try to revitalise the process to find a settlement for the Cyprus question before the 1st of May 2004''.

Verheugen said ''it was very clear in the meeting that the business community and the trade unions agree that a settlement plus accession would provide both sides with a clear win-win situation'', adding that ''both sides would have very strong benefits''.

''I felt very encouraged by the fact that the participants discussed the possibility to have frequent meetings of that type. This certainly is not a matter of the European Commission to organise but I felt the necessity to encourage it. I think that everything that could help bring the Cypriot people close together is in our interest'', he added.

Replying to questions regarding the stance of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash on the Cyprus problem, Verheugen said ''Mr. Denktash is concerned, he has his views, his views are well known''.

He said that during his meeting tomorrow with Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader would probably express his views.

''Let us wait and see. I have mentioned that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called both parties to come forward with ideas, initiatives, and I have encouraged them to do that'', he added.

Asked if he was optimistic that a solution would be found before 2004, Verheugen said ''let us not make forecasts, let us work on it''.

Speaking after the meeting, President of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vassilis Rologis said the discussion was held at the initiative of Verheugen, adding that ''it was a good start and we believe that the proposals put forward are that the meeting become an institution and that we meet soon to begin discussing problems faced by the employers and workers''.

Earlier Verheugen met with former President of the Republic Glafcos Clerides.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.


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