Cypriot President meets EU Enlargement Commissioner
By Nicos Bellos
Brussels, Feb 23 (CNA) -- Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and European Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn discussed here today the latest developments in the Cyprus problem.
During their first meeting, President Papadopoulos and Rehn also discussed the two EU regulations regarding financial aid towards the Turkish Cypriots and direct trade between the Union and Cyprus' northern Turkish occupied areas.
In statements after the meeting, the Cypriot President said he briefed the Commissioner over the latest developments in the Cyprus problem, noting that this issue remains under the UN umbrella but that a more active EU role is expected if and when negotiations start
Rehn will visit Turkey on 8 March and Cyprus on 13 May.
The President was accompanied at the two-hour-long meeting by Minister of Foreign Affairs George Iacovou.
President Papadopoulos said it was an excellent meeting, during which issues concerning the EU and the Republic of Cyprus were discussed.
''These were the EU regulations for the Turkish Cypriots, the construction works and the arrival of settlers in the Turkish occupied areas, the European Commission's plans regarding the protocol Turkey must sign for the extension of its customs union to cover all EU member states, as well as issues for closer cooperation with the EU,'' the President said.
Responding to a question, the President said the reason for which the EU funds, in the framework of the regulation for financial aid, do not reach the Turkish Cypriots is because of their leadership and for clearly political reasons.
He noted that the Turkish Cypriots should take into consideration the fact that this financial aid has an expiry date, which is the end of 2006.
The President also explained to the European Commissioner the government's position that there is no economic or practical reason for the connection of the two regulations, noting that the direct trade regulation is a third regulation imposed by the former Enlargement Commissioner, without any consultation with the Republic of Cyprus, which has some objections on the legal base of this regulation.
''We agree with the interpretation as set out by the legal committee of the Council and we disagree with the legal interpretation of the Commission,'' the President said, adding that the issue is still under discussion.
Responding to a question in connection with a Commission letter to Ankara, calling on Turkey to initial the protocol for the extension of the customs union by the end of February, President Papadopoulos said that this remains the Commission's position.
''We encourage Turkey to fulfil its obligations. The signing of the protocol is a Turkish obligation,'' the President said.
Referring to the continuing construction works in the Turkish occupied areas and the arrival of illegal settlers from mainland Turkey, President Papadopoulos said he submitted a written memorandum to the Commission.
''Turkey has certain obligations as a candidate country and we believe that its actions are contrary to the relations candidate countries and EU member states must have,'' President Papadopoulos said.