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Greece reiterates firm support for Cyprus talks and EU accession
2002-05-22 16:42:59

By Gregoris Savva- Athens, May 22 (CNA) -- Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis has assured that the Cyprus question remains the number one national concern for Athens and pledged to do all he can to help find a negotiated settlement and achieve Cyprus' accession to the European Union.

Speaking after talks in the Greek capital with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, Simitis said there is full understanding between the two governments with regard to the two goals they have set out and stressed it was important to keep to the agreed target date of June in relation to the UN-led peace effort, which so far has made no headway, as he said.

In his remarks, President Clerides described today's meeting as "extremely important" as it comes after four months of direct talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and after a visit to Cyprus by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to press on with the intensification of the talks.

Clerides thanked Greece warmly for the attention it pays to the political problem as well as to the country's bid to join the EU.|

"We confirmed today that there is full understanding between Athens and Nicosia. We want to coordinate our actions to promote a political settlement and conclude successfully Cyprus' accession and we discussed ways these two goals can be achieved," Simitis told the press.

He said the Greek Cypriot side at the talks shows a "very constructive" approach, unlike the Turkish Cypriot side, which "remains attached to its intransigent positions and mainly to the basis of recognising two sovereign states in Cyprus." This, he stressed, has resulted in the absence of any progress so far at the direct talks.

Reiterating support for UN efforts to achieve a settlement, the Greek premier said such a settlement must be viable, based on UN Security Council resolutions, human rights conventions, the acquis communautaire and judgments by the European Court of Human Rights.

"We want to create a bizonal, bicommunal federation, with one sovereignty and one international personality," he added.

He said that a solution must render Cyprus a state that can function and take decisions, and implement EU rules and regulations.

Simitis said it is important that the end of June target date, for which Annan said there should be substantial progress on the core issues (governance, security, territory and properties), is observed by everybody because, as he put it, "we cannot be talking for ever, we have to have an expiry date for these discussions."

Commenting on EU accession, he said Cyprus is progressing steadily towards membership, which will bring peace, security and prosperity to all Cypriots.

On bilateral relations, he said they are "excellent in all fields, and we pay particular attention to cooperation on defence matters, in the light of the continuing military occupation of a large part of Cyprus and continuing Turkish threats."

"The Cyprus question remains for us the number one national issue and Greece will make every possible effort to find a political settlement and achieve accession," he said.

President Clerides said Athens is kept informed about the direct talks.

"Today's meeting was extremely important because it comes after the direct talks which began in January and Annan's visit to Cyprus. We examined the current situation and talked about future moves," the President said.

He extended "warm thanks" to Simitis and his government for the support they lend to Cyprus with regard to both objectives set out, namely a Cyprus settlement and EU accession.

Asked to comment on the possibility of seeing the peace effort becoming part of the accession process, Simitis said "we have to be ready to act effectively if there is any attempt by anybody to pose obstacles."

He also said that there is no official statement linking accession to a prior solution of the Cyprus question and no indication that Cyprus is not making every necessary effort to settle the problem.

"On the contrary, the general feeling is that Turkey is not helping to make progress towards a settlement," Simitis said.

Invited by CNA to say whether the UN should apportion blame, if the stalemate continues, President Clerides said it was too early to predict what might happen and explained that Annan will make up his mind on the matter after he is briefed by his Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto, who attends talks between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus.

Clerides returns home Thursday.

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