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EU commissioner confident for a Cyprus deal
2004-02-09 17:53:35

''In the 21st century Europe we can not have divided countries, barbed wires and landmines'', Verheugen told reporters.

By Nicos Bellos

Brussels, Feb 6 (CNA) -- EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen expressed here Friday his readiness to head a high-level EU team to New York next week to support the Cyprus negotiations.

Speaking after a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul he called upon the parties in Cyprus to seize the opportunity offered, noting ''it would be very important if this common effort is successful''.

Verheugen also expressed his belief that a deal to reunite Cyprus before it joins the European Union in May was in the making noting that in his view ''the resumption of talks means that the involved parties are basically already agreed that there will be an agreement''.

He said an EU team will follow the Cyprus talks in New York on 10 February and if necessary he would lead the team.

As regards to the Cyprus negotiations that collapsed in March 2003 Verheugen said the European Commission was the one trying to keep alive the prospective for a settlement.

He added Annan would not have agreed to restart talks unless all sides had given him assurances of an outcome.

''Kofi Annan's conditions are very clear and my understanding is that he would not resume talks without sufficient guarantees of the involved parties that those conditions are met. So therefore my view is that the conditions he has set out in his report are met,'' the EU commissioner said.

On his part asked whether Turkey has accepted the invitation for negotiations Gul said: ''As you already know we put pressure for the resumption of talks''.

Noting he was returning home to evaluate he situation he said ''It is our intention to finish everything before May, so we have to speed up everything''.

Kofi Annan has sent letters to Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Rauf Denktash inviting them ''to come to New York on 10 February 2004 to resume negotiations on the basis of his plan.''

The objective of the negotiations, a UN statement said, would be to put a completed text to referenda in April, in time for a reunited Cyprus to accede to the EU on May 1, this year.

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