Gul wants 2003 date, Simitis says 2004
by Rebekah Gregoriades--
Copenhagen, Dec 12 (CNA) ? Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his
Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul met in Copenhagen today, just a few hours
before the European Council convenes to decide on the European Union's
enlargement. One of the issues discussed was that of Cyprus, with Simitis
saying GrecoTurkish relations could not improve without a settlement, and
Gul stressing that the solution to all problems was a European Turkey.
While Gul said he expected a date to commence accession negotiations in 2003, Simitis, whose country will take over the EU's rotating presidency for the first half of next year, said Turkey's date would be in 2004.
Speaking after the meeting, also attended by Turkey's ruling Justice and Development party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Simitis said they talked about the European Council that will decide on the enlargement of the European Union, as well as "the progress of the Cyprus situation and the future relations with the EU".
"Greece has a very positive view about the necessity of relations between Turkey and the EU", Simitis said, adding that "the cooperation between the Union and Turkey will secure peace and cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean" and at the same time the EU will be able "to develop and enhance its presence in the Middle East and the other parts of Asia and also in the Arab world".|
Simitis noted that "the Turkish government has made good steps, positive steps in the last weeks towards applying the Copenhagen criteria in Turkey", and pointed out that "the two legislative packages that have been accepted are proof of this".
The Greek Prime Minister said his country supports that Turkey's accession negotiations "can begin in the year 2004".
"But in any case, we will, whatever the position of the Union will be, help that the liaison between the Union and Turkey becomes closer and that negotiations will begin in due time so that Turkey also becomes a member of the Union and the necessary conditions have been completed", Simitis added.
Simitis reminded that Greece will be holding the rotating EU presidency in the first six months of the year 2003 and that Italy will hold the presidency in the second six months. "Italy and Greece are two countries that agree that there should be closer cooperation with Turkey", he noted.
The Greek Premier said he repeated to Gul and Erdogan that "it is necessary to solve the political problem of Cyprus, because in fact this is an important problem concerning the relations with Greece and Europe".
"There can be no points of confrontation, of disagreement, because if there is such a point then the cooperation we want cannot happen. So I hope that a sincere effort will be made either these days or in the next months so that we conclude as soon as possible", he added.
Simitis said Greece is "of the opinion that there are good possibilities of overcoming the existing problems between our countries" and that "we want to create a new relation of cooperation and peace in the region".
Gul said "we explained our positions" and that "we took the necessary steps to meet the Copenhagen criteria".
"We sincerely believe that we have already met the necessary requirements. Before coming here we were very much conscious that first of all we have to fulfil the necessary requirements, we did our homework", Gul said.
He added that "since the Copenhagen criteria is the necessary thing for starting negotiations, now I think it is our right to get a clear date to start negotiations" and "for that reason we are expecting, in fact asking the EU leaders to take a very firm decision in 2003".
Gul said they also discussed "other issues, like Cyprus", noting that "there is a very easy way to solve all the problems".
"Since we are ready and we meet the necessary requirements, let us go into the EU house. When we are there, all the problems will be solved automatically. The European identity will be the common identity that will solve the problems. So once more I want to repeat that we are expecting a firm date that should be in 2003", he explained.
ENDS, CYPRUS NEWS AGENCY