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Media Watch 2004

22 October 2004
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Alex Efthyvoulos
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 22 October 2004.
UK sees Cyprus demands reasonable – says Iacovou
""I am aware that our policy on Cyprus since the referenda has caused concern among Greek Cypriots..."

BRITAIN fully understands Cypriot demands and concerns before the EU grants a date to Turkey on Dec. 17 for the opening of accession negotiations, Foreign Minister George Iacovou said yesterday after talks with Denis MacShane, the British Minister for Europe.

"He did not find any of our demands unreasonable," Iacovou added.

MacShane conferred separately with Iacovou, House President Dimitiris Christofias and President Papadopoulos during a busy day yesterday.

MacShane is expected to meet Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat today.

There were no statements after the Papadopoulos-MacShane meeting.

Iacovou spoke at length however revealing that the Cypriot demands covered both the issue of the regulations for EU trade with the occupied north, financial aid to the Turkey Cypriots and what needed to be done before Dec. 17 when the EU will decide whether to grant Turkey a date for the opening of accession negotiations.

But differences still remained apparently as Iacovou said that Britain has not yet decided on whether it wants both the regulations on trade and aid approved together, or first the one on aid and the other later. MacShane "was very reluctant to express an opinion on this, so we will deal with this later,'' he said.

"Most of the issues we raised are obligations Turkey has to meet and are not to be negotiated,'' Iacovou said. The basic Cypriot demands are for Turkey to recognise the Cyprus state, extend its customs union agreement with the EU to cover Cyprus, allow Cypriot aircraft to overfly Turkish airspace and Cypriot-registered ships to use Turkish ports.

Asked about Britain's views on the use of a veto by Cyprus to block the opening of the EU-Turkey accession negotiations, Iacovou said that this issue falls "entirely within the sovereign rights of Cyprus and no country can tells us what to do. It is well known that Great Britain openly supports the fixing of a date for the opening of negotiations with Turkey.

The Cyprus government has been very critical in the past on Britain's approach on these two issues and on the Greek Cypriot rejection of the Annan Plan in the April referendum. This criticism was repeated yesterday by House President Demetris Christofias during his meeting with MacShane. "I expressed the concern of our people towards the British stance prior, during and especially after the referendum,'' Christofias told reporters.

MacShane spoke only briefly to the press after his first meeting of the day with Iacovou, saying that "the tradition of friendship between Cyprus and Britain has a long and strong tradition." He said Cyprus looks forward to a very bright future, while Turkey looks forward to its accession to the bEU, something that will allow the development of a new future for the East Mediterranean where all will win.

He said that President Papadopoulos and Iacovou "have a very constructive relationship'' with all EU partners, something that would help the EU develop a new future in the Eastern Mediterranean, where everyone will be a winner.

"We count on Cyprus as a partner for the UK in building a new European Union of peace prosperity and justice,'' he said.

Speaking to reporters on arrival on Wednesday, MacShane said that he "understands the concerns'' that made Greek Cypriots reject the Annan Plan in the April referendum.

He said he looked forward "to seeing Greek Cypriot proposals on moving the process forward.''

"If we believe the proposals are reasonable and have a realistic chance of success, we will encourage the UN Secretary-General to re-engage and put all our resources and influence behind finding a solution acceptable to all sides,'' he added.

MacShane said the purpose of his visit would be to discuss "the next steps on the Cyprus problem.''

In his arrival statement on Wednesday, MacShane said: "I am aware that our policy on Cyprus since the referenda has caused concern among Greek Cypriots. The issue of direct trade is particularly contentious,'' he said, adding that he believed that "the deep economic divide between Greek and Turkish Cypriots makes a solution much more difficult.''

He added that he wanted to stress that the UK "remains committed to the reunification of Cyprus. It is in everyone's interests to see an end to the island's divisions as soon as possible.

"We want to work with the government of Cyprus towards this goal.''

"Now that the Turkish Cypriots have turned a page on the past, we need to help them continue on the road toward Europe and reunification. Doing so will make a solution much more likely, easier to consolidate and less costly. This does not mean we ignore legitimate Greek Cypriot concerns on recognition and property rights. On the contrary, we should ensure that everything that the EU does takes account of these concerns. We have reached agreement on financial assistance, with goodwill and dialogue we can do so on trade.''"