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Rhen calls on parties in Cyprus to show compromise
2005-05-13 13:48:30

Nicosia, May 13 (CNA) – ?he current status quo does not correspond to European norms, pledged here Friday EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn, and called on the people to show “willingness to compromise”.

In a speech at the Cyprus International Conference Centre entitled “Cyprus: One year after accession” during a gathering to mark Europe Day, Rehn said «no efforts should be spared to reach a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem”.

To view the entire speech click here

He said “one year after accession I encourage you all to show willingness to compromise. Take the example of Robert Schuman and do the impossible – reach for the other’s hand. Only then we shall be able to create a new united Cyprus”.

Rehn said “time is working against the interest of all Cypriots” noting that to end the stalemate as regards the trade and aid package to Turkish Cypriots, the Commission is “ready to consider a compromise allowing the adoption of the two proposals”.

In his speech, Rehn said “the accession of Cyprus has been a success story. You have new economic opportunities and you enjoy the security benefit of EU membership”.

He noted Cyprus’ “sound economic record was justly rewarded by the decision of the EU to let Cyprus join the 2nd phase of the Exchange Rate Mechanism, which paves the way for a successful entry to the Euro-zone in a few years”.

However, the Commissioner said, “it is regrettable that Cyprus entered the EU as a divided country. Of course, there is no doubt that trade across the Green Line, the routine crossing of thousands of Cypriots every day and the possible opening of new crossing points are positive signals. The Cypriots have also proven that the two communities can live peacefully together”.

But these developments, Rehn added, “cannot replace a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. I am aware of the pain that the present situation causes. There are still minefields, barbed wire and blue helmets across your island. The northern part of the island suffers from a brain drain and economic isolation”.

“In today’s European Union, such a status quo jars. After three decades of separation and one year of EU membership, it is now high time for reconciliation and vision, for courage and far-sightedness on both sides, to help Cyprus become a Member State like all the others - that is: united and in peace”, the Commissioner added.

On the peace process, Rehn referred to the UN Secretary-General’s plan which did not win the approval of the citizens of the Greek Cypriot community. Noting that such an outcome was a disappointment for those who thought that a comprehensive solution was within reach, he said “in a democracy, the vote of the people must be accepted and their concerns taken into account. We must now turn to the future and draw the lessons from this setback”.

He said the Annan plan may be amended and improved, but still it constitutes the framework for a settlement as it addresses all the core issues such as property, territory, security, and the institutions of a united island”.

“The peace process needs to be resumed – and the sooner the better”, said Rehn to add that “therefore, the positions of the parties and their wishes for changes to the Anan plan should be made clear. I fear that time is cementing the status quo - and is thus working against the Cypriots - all Cypriots. Every day without a solution deepens the division – de facto and in people’s minds. The recent tensions and worries about properties underline the urgency to resume talks. I believe a new process would at least contain such tensions, pending a final settlement”.

The Commission has repeatedly expressed its will to support all serious and well-intended efforts for such a comprehensive settlement. We are willing to play a proactive role in future talks. However, he said, any negotiations will take place under UN auspices, given its competence and expertise in key issues such as security, property, governance and territory. “And it must be clear that the main responsibility for any success of negotiations lies with the two communities on the island”, he added.

Rehn renewed his call to both communities to find a way to engage in a dialogue with each other.

On the package for the Turkish Cypriots, he said in July 2004, the Commission proposed a comprehensive package of aid and trade measures. The aid regulation establishes an instrument of financial support for the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community with a view to the reunification of the island; €259 m has been earmarked for this purpose. The trade regulation aims at offering special conditions for trade between the northern part of Cyprus and the EU, he said.

''Discussions in the Council have not led to an agreement on the two proposals. I’d like to emphasise that the only motivation of our proposal is to improve the economy in the north, to offer opportunities to the Turkish Cypriot community – and thus to bring it closer to its Greek Cypriot compatriots and to the EU,'' he added.

To end the stalemate, he said, “we are ready to consider a compromise allowing the adoption of the two proposals. I hope all parties concerned will show the same spirit of compromise”.

Regarding the Green Line Regulation, Rehn said it has been “a great success in the crossing of persons” but “the value of goods traded across the line under the Regulation remains limited (around € 100,000 per month). He further expressed hope that there will be progress soon to open two further crossing points at Zodia and at Ledra Street.

On Turkey, he said “there is no doubt that Turkey will play a key role in finding a solution to the Cyprus problem. I am certain that Turkey’s European prospects will help pave the way for a comprehensive settlement”. He said “Turkey today accepts the prospect of a negotiated settlement leading to the reunification of the island”.

''Moreover, Turkey has agreed on the additional protocol adapting the Ankara agreement, and I expect it will be signed soon after we complete our internal procedures. I am looking forward to Turkey progressing in the normalisation of its relations with the Republic of Cyprus. In this context, we expect Turkey to lift its restrictions on Cypriot vessels, in line with the requirements of the EU-Turkey Customs Union”, Rehn added.

Asked about a government proposal on the return of the fenced area of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants and on the reopening of the city port, Rehn said “we are working on a compromise on the trade and aid package. It is work in progress and I don’t want shoot the gun. The proposal on the Famagusta Port has been in the general wide debate related to the enhancement of the regulations”. Noting he did not want to elaborate or speculate, Rehn pledged the Commission is sparing no efforts in the next few weeks in enhancing the regulations.

Invited to define what would be the enhanced EU role on Cyprus, Rehn said “as Cyprus has become an EU member state, thus it is a full part of the EU, it has also become a more and more european issue. Therefore we want to facilitate the resumption of serious talks on the settlement, so we are exploring ground and trying to find a solution to the issues which are related to the enhancement of the economic and trade relations, that is the trade and aid package and some other issues.''

''At the next stage, once the talks have ensued it will be our task to ensure that the solution will be in line with the acquis communautaire,'' said Rehn, noting the lead role will have to be the UN and the SG.

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