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Cyprus and Britain sign memorandum for structured dialogue
2005-10-25 12:07:49

Nicosia, Oct 25 (CNA) - Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos signed a memorandum of understanding today with British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, with a view to begin a structured dialogue on bilateral matters.

Speaking after the signing of the memorandum, President Papadopoulos said ''our relations with the United Kingdom recently have suffered'' and expressed certainty that the dialogue ''will be a sound foundation to achieve understanding between our two countries and I look forward to cooperation, both in the framework of Europe and in efforts made by the UN for a settlement of the Cyprus problem, which as well-known is under the UN umbrella, and we seek to see the solution with the more active participation of the EU.''

Prescott said the first meeting in the context of the dialogue will take place in January 2006 and noted that ''we have a great deal in common, an awful lot to discuss, as we have today, even your concerns about the difficulties Cyprus has experienced since the illegal occupation of this island by Turkey and in those circumstances we wish to improve and develop and it is hopeful that one can find an agreement under the UN framework.''

President Papadopoulos said he had talks with Prescott ''on a series of issues concerning bilateral relations and of course the Cyprus problem.''

''I do not think it is a secret that our relations with the United Kingdom recently have suffered and I am very encouraged that on both sides there is goodwill to restore the good relations that traditionally exist between the United Kingdom and Cyprus,'' he said.

President Papadopoulos expressed certainty that ''always the dialogue between recognised states is the best way to clear differences, to clarify the climate and for one side to better comprehend the views of the other.''

''We have signed a protocol of mutual understanding today to begin a structured dialogue on various bilateral issues which arise from time to time,'' he said.

He noted that during recent talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, he proposed this structured dialogue.

''Today I am very satisfied because we have signed and proceed a further step, as agreed with Mr. Prescott today. This dialogue will start with a first meeting between the representatives of the two sides in January,'' he added.

President Papadopoulos noted that, ''irrespective of various different views that presented themselves especially over the past few months, we pursue and want not only good relations but excellent relations with the United Kingdom.''

He also expressed certainty that ''Mr. Prescott's visit in both his capacities, as a representative of the EU presidency and as Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, will greatly help restore these relations.''

''I am certain about this and we have assured that there is goodwill between the two sides. This dialogue, I believe, will be a sound foundation to achieve understanding between our two countries and I look forward to cooperation, both in the framework of Europe and in efforts made by the UN for a settlement of the Cyprus problem, which as well-known is under the UN umbrella, and we seek to see the solution with the more active participation of the EU,'' he noted.

Replying to questions about the EU regulations for the Turkish Cypriots, President Papadopoulos said he explained the positions of the Republic of Cyprus, which ''has agreed, although it had the right to veto, to appropriate the amount of 259 million euros provided for by the so-called financial regulation, and if this amount has not been given till today, this is due to the wishes of some countries, including the United Kingdom, to connect the financial regulation with the so-called regulation for direct trade.''

''I explained that this connection was not justified, that it is clearly a political objective of the Turkish Cypriot side,'' he said, adding that ''the issue of the regulations will be discussed in the EU and not necessarily by Mr. Prescott.''

Prescott said they discussed various issues concerning the EU, including ''the financial perspective and indeed the social Europe, which we will be discussing with all the leaders of Europe in the UK later this week.''

Referring to the memorandum of understanding, Prescott said he was ''absolutely delighted of course to hear the views on the memorandum that the President has just expressed, which we thoroughly enjoy and agree and indeed follow from the Prime Minister's meeting with the President in July, wishing to improve on our relationships, which have been there an awful long time.''

''We share common views, common values, and the memorandum emphasises how we can improve on that. And indeed I very much welcome your action plan. It is not just signing a memorandum. You have already made clear we want to get off to a flying start and of course our first meeting will be by the end of January 2006. We will be out of the presidency there, but during our presidency and out of it we wish to improve our relations with Cyprus,'' Prescott noted.

He added that ''we have a great deal in common, an awful lot to discuss, as we have today, even your concerns about the difficulties Cyprus has experienced since the illegal occupation of this island by Turkey and in those circumstances we wish to improve and develop and it is hopeful that one can find an agreement under the UN framework.''

''You have expressed your views about that since the referendum here in Cyprus and indeed you are now within the EU framework of course, which makes quite a substantial change. We have exchanged views about that and I shall be delighted to tell our Foreign Secretary about some of those indeed the Prime Minister,'' Prescott said.

Replying to questions, Prescott said that ''when we took over the presidency of the EU for the last six months of the year up to December, we inherited certain responsibilities and obligations as the presidency and not as Britain.''

''One of those obligations, agreed by all members of the EU, was to open negotiations with Turkey and also, if the conditions we had laid down can be satisfied, with Croatia also. Both those conditions have been satisfied. They were the requirements of our presidency imposed upon us by the EU and of course we have carried that out as indeed is our responsibility to do so as the presidency of the EU and we find no difference between that and the British positions,'' he noted.

He added that ''by Turkey entering into that agreement of course it enters also into obligations itself in regard to recognising all the countries within the EU and the obligations they have signed up to.''

Asked about Turkey's policy to block Cyprus' entry into international organisations, Prescott said ''the obligations are clear, you enter into European negotiations, there are obligations and responsibilities on every one of us, both in the Republic of Cyprus and indeed the United Kingdom, any member of the EU, they are the obligations entered into, they are the ones everyone has to satisfy if you want to be a member of the EU.''

Prescott met earlier today with the Secretary General's Special Representative in Cyprus, UNFICYP Chief of Mission Zbigniew Wlosowicz, at Ledra Palace in the UN-controlled buffer zone. He also made a brief tour of the ceasefire line.

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