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Verheugen says Turkish Cypriots to join EU through solution
2003-06-17 14:35:08

Nicosia, Jun 17 (CNA) -- European Commissioner on Enlargement Gunter Verheugen said here today that the Turkish Cypriots would only join the EU and enjoy the benefits of accession if a solution was found to the political problem of the island. Speaking at a gathering organised by the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Cyprus' accession to the EU, Verheugen said there was an opportunity to reach a settlement of the island's problem before the Republic became a full member of the EU, adding that the conditions for a solution existed.

Referring to recent developments on the island, with packages to support the Turkish Cypriots and the easing of restrictions on the free movement of citizens across the divide he said they ''showed clearly that the myth that your two communities cannot live peacefully together is wrong''.

Verheugen noted that ''confidence-building measures, however far-reaching, will never be an alternative to a reunification of the island''.|

''A window of opportunity presents itself before the accession of Cyprus to the EU on 1 May 2004. If you want, it will be a united Cyprus that joins the Union. The conditions for it all are there'', he added.

Verheugen listed the measures included in a European Commission package to support the Turkish Cypriots and welcomed a similar package announced by the government of the Republic.

Referring to the role of Turkey, he said her support for a comprehensive settlement ''is crucial'', noting that ''a settlement would not only enable the Turkish Cypriots to join their Greek Cypriot compatriots and be fully integrated in the EU but would also remove an issue that would otherwise become a serious obstacle to realising Turkey's own aspirations to open accession talks''.

''Cyprus' accession to the EU is part of a unique historical process. Our wish is to enable all Cypriots to be part of this process from the very beginning. Therefore, no efforts should be spared to reach a comprehensive settlement before the 1 May 2004'', he added.

Verheugen noted that ''contrary to the persistent perception on both sides, the solution to the Cyprus problem is not a zero-sum game'', adding that ''a solution building on the UN Secretary General's plan would create a win-win situation''.

Replying to questions, Verheugen said ''the only way for the Turkish Cypriots to join the EU and to enjoy the benefits of the membership of Cyprus is via a political settlement of the Cyprus problem''.

''For the EU, the situation is crystal clear and you can read it in the Accession Treaty and the protocols for Cyprus'' included therein, he noted, adding that ''if there is no solution, the Republic of Cyprus as it is today will become a member of the EU''.

Asked what he expected of his meeting tomorrow with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, Verheugen said ''I do not expect that there will be a breakthrough out of this meeting'', adding that he would listen and try to help Denktash better understand the intentions of the EU.

The European Commissioner noted that it was ''tragic'' that the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community was not supporting a solution that would be to the benefit of the Turkish Cypriots.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. The Republic of Cyprus will become a full member of the EU on May 1, 2004.


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