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2004-12-22 10:50:21

Cyprus Sees Decision as a Step towards Reunification of the Island

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 22, 2004) – The European Union’s (EU) decision to set a date for the beginning of accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU is a positive step towards reaching a solution to the Cyprus problem, the Ambassador of the Republic of Cyprus said today.

In the months leading up to the decision, there was a great deal of speculation that Cyprus might use its veto power to block Turkey’s EU aspirations. The two countries have a troubled history. Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 and continues to illegally maintain more than 35,000 troops on its soil. Many of the differences between Cyprus and Turkey also include Turkey’s refusal to recognize Cyprus, an EU member; Turkey’s continued military occupation of the northern third of Cyprus; violations of human rights and basic freedoms; and Turkey’s ongoing actions to block Cyprus from numerous regional organizations.

Despite these ongoing problems, resulting from Turkey’s negative actions towards Cyprus, the Cypriot government took into account the views of both EU and non-EU partners, along with the prospects for peace, and decided to provide Turkey a date to begin accession negotiations.

“We are extending the hand of friendship to Turkey in the hope that we may move forward,” Euripides L. Evriviades, Cyprus Ambassador to the U.S., said. “We did not wish to stand in the way of Turkey bettering itself. We hope that this will help lead to a new climate in the relations between our two countries and usher in a new era of cooperation, understanding, and prosperity in our region.” “Also,” added Ambassador Evriviades, “our constructive stance regarding Turkey’s European path may help improve the relations between Cyprus and the United States that, despite our otherwise excellent cooperation in many areas such as combating international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, currently experience certain difficulties due to a number of actions taken by the US after last April’s referendum on the Annan plan.”

A key condition set by the December 16 – 17 EU Summit in Brussels is that Turkey must extend the customs union agreement with EU’s ten new members, including Cyprus, before October 3, 2005, when Ankara is set to begin the accession talks. The road to EU membership requires any prospective member to align itself with the strict standards of the EU. Inherent in this process will be the resolution of many of the outstanding issues between Cyprus and Turkey, since Turkey’s behavior towards Cyprus is inconsistent with the ideals of peace, cooperation, and the rule of law, which are fundamental principles of the EU.

Speaking this weekend, President Tassos Papadopoulos said, “I am on the whole satisfied with the result [of the EU summit]. We made a significant, positive first step. Of course we were pursuing more but we achieved what we could under the circumstances.”

“December 17 is not the end but the beginning of a huge challenge and a course with possibilities and opportunities, in which the Republic of Cyprus has a say and a role to play,” President Papadopoulos added.

President Papadopoulos, also pointed out that “Exercising the veto was an option. However, I judged that, since our final aim is to reach an agreed functional solution of the Cyprus problem, exercising the veto would not promote the solution of the Cyprus problem but in the end would give Turkey the guise to continue its policy to consolidate the results of the invasion and occupation''.

The government of Cyprus maintains its full commitment to the goal of the reunification of Cyprus as a bizonal, bicommunal federation, and believes that Turkey’s European path will facilitate the settlement of the Cyprus dispute. Turkey must realize that the respect of human rights and international law; the implementation of the basic principles and freedoms on which the EU is founded; and the end of the occupation of an EU member state comprise some of the mandatory obligations a candidate country must fulfill in order to achieve full membership.

“We wish to show the world that we can rise above the immense challenges of our longstanding differences and move forward on a fair and balanced path for peace and stability,” said Ambassador Evriviades, “We hope that one of the eventual outcomes of this process will be a united Cyprus, free of foreign troops for the benefit, first and foremost, of all Cypriots.”

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