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Finnish Minister reaffirms EU Helsinki conclusions on Cyprus
2002-07-08 21:58:07

Nicosia, Jul 8 (CNA) - The EU is committed to the 1999 Helsinki EU Summit conclusions on Cyprus, as they have been reaffirmed by the European Council in Seville last month, Finnish Minister of Foreign Trade and European Affairs Jari Vilen has said.

"We are hoping for the possibility to have a united island in the EU but that is not a precondition" for Cyprus to join the EU, Vilen said during a joint press conference with Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides.

In his remarks, Kasoulides said that Cyprus and Finland have many issues of mutual interest, adding that "Finland is interested in the efforts to use the window of opportunity and resolve the Cyprus problem" before the EU decision on enlargement in Copenhagen next December.

| The Helsinki Summit conclusions said that a solution to the Cyprus problem is not a precondition for EU accession.

The Finnish Minister expressed hope that the Turkish government will use its influence and try to find ways to solve the Cyprus problem.

He also expressed hope that there will be a commitment on behalf of the Turkish Cypriot side to continue and push forward the direct talks, which began in January between President of the Republic Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash with the aim to find a solution to the Cyprus problem.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.

The Finnish Minister referred to the economic benefits for the Turkish Cypriots when Cyprus joins the EU.

"The EU is ready and willing to have a sustainable commitment also in the economic factors. There is already a commitment for 200 million euros for that and I am sure that when we will find a solution the commitment will be even higher", he said.

Cyprus "is ready and willing to participate in the EU family", he said, adding that the EU is looking forward to finalising and solving the final difficulties in the negotiations.

"I am pleased to hear your government's commitment to continue the negotiation to find a sustainable solution to the Cyprus question," he added.

Cyprus is the first applicant country Vilen is visiting. Vilen, who is on the island for a two-day official visit, was received earlier today by President Clerides. He also met with Chief Negotiator for the Accession of Cyprus to the EU George Vassiliou.

Speaking after his meeting with the Finnish Minister, Vassiliou said Vilen's visit to the island is of great importance, especially taking into consideration that the EU will soon be deciding on the applicant countries.

"Finland has always been a friendly country to Cyprus and these feelings have been reaffirmed during today's meeting", Vassiliou said.

Tomorrow, the Finish Minister will meet with Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Nicos Rolandis, to discuss bilateral issues.

Vilen leaves the island tomorrow.

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