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Irish President calls on Turkey to normalize relations with Cyprus
2006-10-11 13:19:12

Nicosia, Oct 10 -- If Turkey wants to join the European Union, it must embark on a process to normalize gradually its relations with Cyprus, Irish President Mary McAleese has said.

She added that Turkey has an important role to play in Europe but also has to go through a long and painstaking process of reform.

In an interview with CNA, on the occasion of her state visit to Cyprus, Ms. McAleese also said that Cyprus has had a powerful impact on the European Union since its accession in May 2004, pointing out that both her country and Cyprus, as EU members, are offered the chance to magnify their voice rather than drown it.

On the political front, she said both countries are politically divided with a legacy of mistrust and noted that the peace process in her native Ireland has advanced much further than the equivalent in Cyprus.

On similarities and differences between the political situation on the island of Ireland and the island of Cyprus and on possible involvement by Dublin in the UN-led peace effort to reunite Cyprus, the Irish President noted that both islands are politically divided with a legacy of mistrust going back generations.

''The peace process in Ireland has advanced much further than the equivalent in Cyprus bringing tangible political and economic benefits for both parts of Ireland in its wake. As we know in Ireland, overcoming the legacy of a conflict is difficult but the effort will bring benefits to future generations,'' she added.

Ireland, she said, participates actively in the UN- led peace process both by its participation in the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) and, with its EU partners, in giving political support to the UN efforts to bring both sides together.

Asked about Dublin's way of dealing with EU-Turkish relations in the forthcoming period, she said the Irish government is supportive of and welcomed the agreement on accession talks regarding Turkish membership of the European Union.

''Ireland believes that Turkey is part of Europe and has an important role to play in Europe. In order to join the EU, Turkey will have to undergo significant reform, which will be a painstaking and sometimes painful process and is not likely to be achieved overnight. It is likely to be ten years until the negotiations are complete. An important part of the process will be Turkey's progressive normalisation of relations with Cyprus,'' she stressed.

Asked to assess Cyprus' membership and contribution to the EU so far, she said ''the last enlargement brought into the Union a number of what I might term 'smaller' countries - including Cyprus - who like Ireland are determined to 'punch above their weight' on the EU scene.''

Already, she went on to add, ''Cyprus has had a powerful impact on the Union. In particular I acknowledge Cyprus' pivotal role in relation to the conflict in the Middle East - not least in your response to this summer's dreadful events. Cyprus has shown great commitment towards promoting peace and stability in the region and I am sure that Ireland and Cyprus will continue to work together with our EU partners to achieve a comprehensive settlement to the Middle East conflict.''

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