Although Cyprus UN-sponsored talks are deadlocked, the island's EU accession course is on track for mid-2002 with or without a solution, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said Sunday, March 11.
The Greek Foreign Minister discussed the east Mediterranean island's EU membership and seemingly defunct proximity talks during negotiations with his Greek Cypriot counterpart Yiannakis Cassoulides.
Papandreou is on an official three-day visit to the island and is scheduled to meet Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides Monday and due to leave Tuesday.
"We have come to the conclusion that the island's accession is in its final stages and should be concluded by mid-2002," Papandreou told a press conference in Nicosia. "And we expressed the hope that the proximity talks will resume at some stage from where they left off last November and a solution is reached before accession," he added.
A sixth round of UN-mediated talks were expected to resume late January, but Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's refusal to attend has been indefinitely postponed. Denktash demands that his breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus be recognized first. The regime is only recognized by Turkey.
Cassoulides said there was no movement in the stalled talks process. "The ball is in the Turkish camp. There is nothing new to add to this issue," he said.
The 1999 Helsinki EU summit paved the way for Cyprus to join the EU before a political solution was reached. "Greece will stand by Cyprus' side in the EU process. I hope the Turkish Cypriots will join this effort and if not, Greece will do everything to ensure the island's membership," said Papandreou.
The Turkish Cypriots have so far refused invitations by the Greek Cypriot government to join in the EU negotiation process. "It is somewhat of an irony at a time of warmer relations between Greece and Turkey, that Greek and Turkish Cypriots can't even meet, so we must emphasize how the EU process can change this," said Papandreou. — (AFP, Nicosia)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)