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2002-01-14 21:20:27

Nicosia, Jan 14 (CNA) - Leaders of Greek and Turkish Cypriot political parties expressed today hope that progress towards a solution of the Cyprus question will be made during the face-to-face talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, due to start on 16 January, 2002.

Speaking after a meeting held today at Ledra Palace, in the Nicosia buffer zone, General Secretary of left-wing AKEL Demetris Christofias, President of the United Democrats George Vassiliou and leader of the Turkish Republican Party Mehmet Ali Talat condemned the fact that the Turkish occupation regime today prevented Greek Cypriot businessmen to cross over into the occupied areas, in order to meet with their Turkish Cypriot counterparts.|

Christofias said the Turkish Cypriots invest in the talks between Clerides and Denktash, in order to achieve progress towards finding a solution to the protracted Cyprus problem, while their leader tries to send out messages in contrast with the expectations of the two communities.

However, he pointed out that "we will continue to struggle for rapprochement, contacts, exchange of views and events between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots."

Invited to say what his predictions were regarding the outcome of the upcoming face-to-face talks between Clerides and Denktash, Christofias said at this point there can be no predictions, and expressed hope that Denktash would attend the talks with a changed attitude "in order to have a sincere and productive dialogue, which will bring about results."

Clerides and Denktash have agreed to begin, under UN aegis, direct talks on the island on January 16, after nearly a year of not negotiating at all, after Denktash withdrew from the process in November 2000.

On his part, Vassiliou said both the Greek and Turkish Cypriots long for a solution to the Cyprus problem, but pointed out that if the Turkish Cypriot side continues to support its position for a solution based on a confederation, then there could be no progress. He added that those who voice such positions have not realised that "one Cyprus will join the European Union, not two."

Cyprus opened accession negotiations with the EU in 1998 and has so far provisionally closed 24 out of 29 chapters under negotiation.

Invited to comment on the illegal regime's actions, which prevented Greek Cypriot businessmen to cross over into the occupied areas today, Talat said "such acts are not just", adding he felt "ashamed" by such an attitude.

Asked what he thought would come out of the face-to-face talks between Clerides and Denktash, he said he expected a solution to be found and added that he encourages the two sides to continue with their dialogue and reach a solution, pointing out "the two leaders seem to take the problem seriously."

Meetings between Greek and Turkish Cypriot parties are regularly organised by the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Nicosia.

According to Slovak Ambassador to Cyprus Dusan Rozbora, the parties today decided not to issue any joint communique. He added that the next bicommunal meeting of the leaders and the representatives of the political parties would be held on February 18 at the Ledra Palace.

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