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Cyprus remains front-runner among EU candidate countries
2002-06-10 08:14:43

Nicosia, Jun 10 (CNA) -- Cyprus Chief Negotiator with the EU George Vassiliou has said that during his recent meetings in Germany with government and parliamentary officials he ascertained the general feeling that Cyprus remains the front-runner among the EU candidate countries.

In an interview with the German radio station "Deutche Welle" Vassiliou noted that the 1999 Helsinki EU Summit decision on Cyprus is "crystal clear" and underlines that Europe wants the reunification of Cyprus, divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third, but does not set out the settlement of the Cyprus problem as a precondition for accession.|

While in Germany, he had meetings with the parliamentary committees of European and External Affairs, party representatives and senior officials of the German Foreign Ministry.

Referring to the ongoing UN-led direct talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, which began in mid January this year, Vassiliou said "unfortunately, things were stagnant with the responsibility lying exclusively with Denktash, who is insisting on his position for two states in Cyprus."

Invited to say whether Cyprus accession is a "blank check", irrelevant of the solution or not of the Cyprus question, Vassiliou said "surely, it was never a blank check, but it was a prospect for all of us."

Invited to comment on Turkish threats for heated incidents to impede Cyprus' accession to the EU, the former Cypriot President said that "it would be absurd not to have any concerns, provided Turkey's behaviour so far."

"Concerns are justified", Vassiliou said. However, he expressed the view that "that Cyprus will accede and the possibilities for a heated incident are far off."

He recalled the recent decision of the Turkish National Security Council that Turkey's European orientation is the first priority. "It is difficult from the one side to say 'Europe' and from the other to create a heated incident", Vassiliou remarked.

Cyprus opened accession negotiations with the EU in 1998 and will close today another chapter of the acquis communautaire, that of Competition, bringing up the number of closed chapters to 28 out of 31.

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