Greece and Turkey discuss Cyprus in Brussels
by Maria Myles
Brussels, Mar 22 (CNA) - The Greek and Turkish Prime Ministers, Costas Karamanlis and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, discussed here last night, among other issues, the question of Cyprus and in statements to the press afterwards both talked about a political settlement on the basis of a UN-proposed solution plan (Annan plan).
Karamanlis said his goal is to see Cyprus reunited through negotiations, on the basis of the Annan plan, pointing out that this is the only way Greek and Turkish Cypriots can reap the benefits of European cooperation. He also said that Turkey has to sign the protocol to its customs union agreement with the European Union, extending it to all ten new members including Cyprus, which Ankara does not recognise.
Erdogan said he would sign the protocol as soon as experts dealing with it complete their work on the protocol, adding that Ankara will take all necessary steps before accession negotiations are set to begin on 3 October this year. He said that the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides are the ones to decide about when talks can begin, as the key players in the question of Cyprus.
''We also discussed Cyprus, what we can do regarding a solution based on the UN plan,'' he said after the two-hour long working dinner with Karamanlis, on the eve of the European Union summit, and referred to the need for political will for a solution on the part of both sides in Cyprus.
Replying to questions about signing the protocol, he said ''I should not give you an exact time of when we will sign it, our experts are working on it, as soon as they complete their studies and work, we can go ahead and sign it.''
He noted that the accession talks begin on 3 October and added ''the steps that need to be taken before that will definitely be taken.''
On the prospect of resuming talks on Cyprus, he said both parties in Cyprus should resolve all the difficulties and then go ahead with talks, adding that political will is needed towards this goal.
''But the parties to decide on that at the first level is not Mr. Karamanlis and me but Mr. Papadopoulos (President of the Republic of Cyprus) and Mr. Talat (self-styled premier in Turkish occupied Cyprus),'' Erdogan added, noting that Talat is at present involved in an ''electoral'' campaign.
In his remarks to the press, Karamanlis said they discussed the question of Cyprus and he reiterated his position that ''our goal remains to reunite the island through negotiations on the basis of the Annan plan and the framework of the acquis communautaire and the European principles and values.''
''This is the only way all the residents of the island, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, can enjoy the benefits of European cooperation and prosperity,'' he added.
Referring to Turkey's accession course, he said the road to full membership will be ''long and difficult,'' as every candidate country's way to accession was.
The EU, he said, attaches great importance to respect of its principles and values in order to open this road.
''In the recent past, it is becoming all the more obvious that the Union is not prepared to appear flexible with regard to compliance with the preconditions it sets out each time,'' Karamanlis said.
He said Athens is a supporter of Ankara's efforts to move close to Europe but he pointed out that ''there is a lot to be done in important areas, including the signing of the protocol before 3 October.''
The two premiers discussed other matters of mutual interest including cooperation in tourism, energy, economy and trade. They talked about their participation in today's meeting of the European People's Party, with Erdogan attending as an observer for the first time.
Today, Karamanlis is to meet Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos before the start of the European Council.