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Rasmussen says Cyprus issue will not block EU enlargement
2002-12-12 16:13:07

by Themis Themistocleous -- Copenhagen, Dec 12 (CNA) -- Danish Prime Minister Anders Fog Rasmussen, who is chairing the EU summit in Copenhagen, said here this evening that the Cyprus issue ''cannot and will not'' block the decision to be taken tomorrow on enlargement of the Union with the accession of up to ten new members, including the Mediterranean island.

Asked during a press conference shortly before the summit opened, whether there will be a solution to the Cyprus problem before the end of the meeting, Rasmussen said he was hopeful, but added he could not guarantee a positive outcome to ''the talks that are being held here in Copenhagen in parallel to the EU summit.''|

Alvaro de Soto, special adviser on Cyprus to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, is shuttling between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, Turkish officials and Tahsin Ertugruloglu, who is representing the ailing Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, in the Danish capital, with the hope that he can secure agreement on the revised plan which Annan presented to the parties on Tuesday.

Rasmussen said the EU strongly supported the UN plan and was hopeful that a conclusion could be reached before the EU summit ended.

''I wish to stress however,'' the Danish PM added, ''that the Cyprus question cannot and will not block the decision on enlargement. When the Union is ready to decide on enlargement, that decision will be made.''

Asked how the EU would react if Turkey annexed the northern part of the island which it controls since its invasion of Cyprus in 1974 in response to the accession of Cyprus to the Union, Rasmussen said he had not seen a negative reaction from Turkey to the prospect.

He added that the EU wanted to give Turkey a ''positive signal'' as regards a date for the start of its accession talks with the Union and expressed the hope that the new Turkish government ''will see the message in the spirit it is sent by us.''

He went on to say that in his view, ''the Turkish government, whatever happens at the summit here, will realise that relations between Turkey and the EU will depend very much on Turkish reactions in the coming weeks and months.''

Asked about Turkey's demand for a date in 2003 for the start of accession talks with the EU, the Danish leader said he now saw ''a clear basis for compromise'' and added he would present a proposal to his colleagues at a working dinner this evening, with the hope that it could be ''a basis for a solution'' to the matter.

Rasmussen underlined that the outcome would be ''a European decision,'' noting that he had explained this to US President George Bush, who had called him recently to express support for a date for Turkey earlier than in 2005, as proposed by France and Germany, two of the traditional pillars of the EU.

The Danish PM said he hoped a decision on a date for Turkey could be taken tomorrow and recalled that all prospective EU members should comply with accession criteria set in Copenhagen ten years ago before the start of accession negotiations.

''Turkey has to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria ... All EU members agree with this. I have just explained this to Prime Minister (Abdullah) Gul,'' Rasmussen said.

Asked what would happen if any of the ten candidate countries expected to be accepted into the EU tomorrow failed to accept the financial package offered by the member states and thus to conclude its accession talks before the final decision was taken at the summit, Rasmussen said clearly that the country concerned would have to wait till the next enlargement of the EU in 2007.

CNA TT/GP/2002

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