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European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn Says Unique Chance to Reunite Cyprus in 2009 Should Not be Missed
2009-02-13 14:14:09

Nicosia, Feb 13 - European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn pointed out on Friday that there is a unique chance to reunite Cyprus in 2009 and that this chance should not be missed.

Mr. Rehn said the EU is fully supportive of the process of direct talks for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, adding that the two sides on the island are ready to put aside the past and work together to reunify the island and the two communities, which gives him great hope for the future of a reunified Cyprus, as a normal member state of the EU.

Speaking at a press conference in Nicosia after meetings with the leaders of the two communities, namely President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, Mr. Rehn said “there is a unique chance this year to reunite Cyprus and bring to an end this longstanding conflict on European soil,” adding that “this chance must be taken and not missed.”

He also assured that “the EU and the European Commission are fully supportive of this process of negotiations for a comprehensive settlement.”

Referring to his meetings on the island with the leaders of the two communities and UN representatives, Mr. Rehn said he welcomed “their strong commitment to a successful reunification,” adding that “the Commission is providing all political support for their efforts and we are also ready to offer our legal and technical advice on matters relating to the EU.”

“Once the leaders agree on a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue, the EU will then accommodate the terms of a settlement. We will do our utmost to accommodate the terms of a settlement, in line with the fundamental principles on which the EU is founded,” he pointed out.

Mr. Rehn explained that “this means, for instance, that of course a settlement should be in line with the principles and the acquis communautaire of the EU, and it is essential that the reunified Cyprus will be able to speak with one single voice in the decision-making structures of the EU.”

“That is essential for Cyprus and that is absolutely essential for the EU, and that means that we are in favor of a bizonal bicommunal federation, with political equality, as defined in the resolutions of the UN,” he added.

He also said that he walked down Ledra Street and had the opportunity to speak with people from both communities, noting that “the two sides of the island are ready to put aside the past and work together to reunify the island and the two communities.”

“This gives me great hope for the future of Cyprus, of a reunified Cyprus, as a normal member state of the EU,” he said.

Mr. Rehn noted that he discussed with the leaders of the two communities “mostly the negotiation process related to the comprehensive solution, but in that context we discussed the importance of further confidence building measures.”

“In this context I welcomed their decision to set up an expert commission or advisory body to deal with the preservation and restoration of immovable cultural heritage. That is again one step forward,” he pointed out.

He thanked the leaders “for their support to the demining of the buffer zone,” noting that “since 2004, the EU has provided some nine million euros for this and we are open to provide further funding since I believe it is one of the factors that would facilitate a comprehensive solution.”

Mr. Rehn added that “the EU stands ready to support a Cypriot solution to the Cyprus problem for the sake of Cyprus and for the sake of Europe, and we rely on the two leaders' skills and determination to reach that solution and we are supporting their work in order to achieve this common objective.”

Replying to questions about possible deadlines for achieving a settlement, Mr. Rehn said that “it is better to avoid delving into this discussion, which has deep roots in the two communities as a culture.”

“In my view it is essential that there is mutual trust between the two leaders, as there is, and that the two communities support their efforts, they support the solution and, in the case of the Turkish Cypriot community, they support a pro-solution and pro-European orientation. That is what counts and that will bring results, I am sure,” he added.

Asked what the EU could do to bridge the approach of the two communities and the approach of Turkey to a solution, Mr. Rehn said “the two leaders have found common ground on the basis, on the foundations of a settlement concerning governance, and that is certainly welcome, even if some issues are perhaps still open as regards that chapter.”

“As regards Turkey, I have had meetings recently with leaders of Turkey. Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has met Prime Minister Erdogan some weeks ago, and in all our meetings we underlined the importance of proactive support by Turkey for a comprehensive settlement, along the lines that the two leaders and the two communities can agree. It is indeed important that Turkey contributes to a favorable political atmosphere to facilitate a comprehensive settlement on Cyprus,” he added.

Mr. Rehn noted that “what counts is that the two leaders have been able to agree on the political foundations of a unified Cyprus, even if there are still some open issues.”

“We express our views to Turkey to encourage political support and create a favorable climate. What counts is that Turkey supports the process along the lines that the two leaders have agreed and will continue to work in order to agree on other issues,” Mr. Rehn added.

Asked if a solution of the Cyprus problem should take into account the EU principle on the free movement of citizens, Mr. Rehn said “the free movement of people is one of the core freedoms of the single market of the EU.”

“I find it only natural that this will be also the result of a comprehensive solution in Cyprus. I do not see any reason why it should not be so,” he concluded.

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