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Balkenende: Recognition of Cyprus linked with Ankara Agreement
2004-12-07 14:24:39

Nicosia, 7 Dec (CNA) -- The adaptation of the Ankara Agreement (EU Turkey Customs Union) is possibly the cornerstone for the solution of the issue of the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey, Jan Peter Balkenende, current President of the European Council and Dutch Prime Minister has said here today.

Speaking after meeting Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, Balkenende also noted that the Ankara Agreement could help in improving the situation on the Cyprus problem.

In his remarks, Papadopoulos reiterated that Cyprus supports Turkey's EU bid, provided that the country fulfills its obligations towards the EU and Cyprus.

''We want Turkey to be able to help us to be positive in that process. But of course it is the decision of each individual member-state to decide how its interests are safeguarded and how they are best-served,'' Papadopoulos added.

In statements after the meeting Balkenende referred to the upcoming EU Summit on Dec 17, during which the EU leaders will decide whether to grant Turkey a date to start accession negotiations, noting that ''clearly this decision is of great interest to Cyprus''.

''The decision will have influence on bilateral relations between Turkey and Cyprus and we must make sure that that influence, that effect will be a positive one,'' the Dutch Prime Minister noted.

Papadopoulos described the work of the Dutch Presidency in finding consensus by all member-states on the Turkish bid as difficult.

''This is not an enviable job I assure you, is difficult,'' he said.

He noted that ''we believe that the Presidency will take into account our positions in the draft conclusions and the arguments to put forward on making these conclusions as widely acceptable as possible amongst the member states.''

Asked if it is possible for Turkey to start accession negotiations with the EU without Turkey recognising all the member states, Balkenende, said that this issue is linked with the Ankara Agreement.

''The Ankara Agreement is so important because it has to do with relations with the candidates and the member states of the EU and signing the protocol to the Ankara Agreement is of great importance that has to be discussed,'' Balkenende said, adding ''it is not an easy discussion I can tell you, but we are busy with that.''

''So talking about the Ankara agreement is possibly the cornerstone to find the solutions,'' he added.

Balkenende also said that the solution of the Cyprus issue ''is not a part of the Copenhagen Criteria, but we all want to take steps which could lead to the improving the situation, that is what the President talked and we are aware of that.''

''The element of the Ankara agreement could really help to take steps forward so that we are making progress and that is what the President made very clear: we need progress and of course the Presidency of the European Council is certainly advocating that''.

Replying to a comment whether Balkenende convinced him that the use of veto by Cyprus in the upcoming Summit is not necessary, Papadopoulos said Cyprus supports the start of accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU ''provided that Turkey will fulfil its obligations to the EU and towards Cyprus.''

''We want Turkey to be able to help us to be positive in that process. But of course it is the decision of each individual member state to decide how its interest is safeguarded and how they are best served. If you expect me to say yes or no, sorry I would not say that,'' Papadopoulos noted.

Balkenende departed from Cyprus late this afternoon.

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