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Pique encourages two sides to reunite Cyprus
2002-06-22 15:45:38

By Rebekah Gregoriades -- Seville, Jun 22 (CNA) - Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique, whose country holds the European Union rotating presidency until the end of June, has encouraged the two sides in Cyprus to continue their efforts to reunite the island.

He noted that Cyprus could be one of the EU candidates to sign Accession Treaties in the first quarter of 2003 and join in the first half of 2004.

Pique also urged Turkey to implement the political and economic reforms for the start of accession negotiations with the Union.

Pique told a press conference last night, after the conclusion of the first day of the Seville European Council, that a solution to the Cyprus problem, although preferable, was not a precondition for the island to join the EU, thus reaffirming the Helsinki summit conclusions.|

He said all the conditions were in place for keeping to the enlargement timetable, with the candidates formalising their accession at the beginning of March next year and being able to take part in the European elections in 2004.

The Spanish official noted that in the months to come, "the candidate countries will need not only to reach agreement but also introduce economic, legislative and administrative reforms and demonstrate that they are able to put those internal reforms into practice."

The Spanish Foreign Minister said up to ten countries, including Cyprus, could sign EU Accession Treaties in the first quarter of 2003 and join in the first half of 2004.

Cyprus, which opened accession negotiations with the EU in 1998, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash launched UN-led talks in January this year, with a view to solve the Cyprus problem.

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