EU urges Cyprus sides to seize 'unique' chance for talks

The communities launched reunification talks in September 2008, but negotiations have been slow.

EU urges Cyprus sides to seize 'unique' chance for talks
Europe's chief official for enlargement on Friday urged parties in ethnically divided Cyprus to seize a "unique" opportunity this year to make peace in a conflict frustrating Turkey's EU entry hopes.

Cyprus, a European Union member since 2004, has been divided between its Turkish and Greek Cypriots since a Turkish invasion in 1974 caused by a brief Greek inspired coup.

The communities launched reunification talks in September 2008, but negotiations have been slow. Diplomats are anxious to see progress on the conflict this year, before Turkish Cypriot elections and an assessment of Turkey's bid to join the EU.

"There is a unique chance this year to reunite Cyprus and to bring to an end this long-standing conflict on European soil," said Olli Rehn, the European Union commissioner for enlargement.

The conflict has frustrated generations of diplomats, most recently in 2004, when Greek Cypriots rejected a United Nations settlement blueprint a week before the island joined the EU as its only divided state.

Speaking in a buffer zone which splits the Cypriot capital Nicosia, Rehn said of the peace process; "This chance must be taken and not missed."

Both Cypriot sides agree to reunite Cyprus as a bizonal bicommunal federation, but there are profound disagreements on an array of issues like power sharing, and territorial and property claims, a quagmire in a country where more than one-fifth of its one million population are displaced.

"Once the leaders agree on a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus issue, the EU will then accommodate the terms of a settlement," Rehn said.

Turkey began accession negotiations in 2005 but talks have moved painfully slowly, partly out of a reluctance among states like France and Germany towards further enlargement of the bloc.

For Cyprus, Turkey's hopes of joining are contingent on pulling its 30,000 troops out of northern Cyprus, an autonomius Turkish Cypriot state. Greek Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said last week Turkey would not be able to join the European Union as long as the Cyprus stalemate persisted.

Reuters
Last Mod: 14 Şubat 2009, 12:04
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