Written Answers. - Visit to Cyprus.

Seán Power


90 Mr. Power asked the asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will give a detailed account of his recent fact finding visit to Cyprus; the outcome of his discussions with the representatives of both the Greek and Turkish communities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [

My visit to Cyprus from 9-11 January was part of my preparations for the Irish Presidency of the European Union in the second half of this year. The development of the Union's relations with Cyprus in the perspective of the opening of EU accession negotiations six months after the ending of the Intergovernmental Conference will be an important issue during our term of office. As Presidency, we will lead the Union's structured dialogue with Cyprus which has been established to prepare the ground for the accession negotiations.

The prospect of EU membership has introduced a new dimension to the Cyprus question. Like our EU partners, we are concerned to ensure that the prospect of accession be seen to benefit both communities on the island and that the accession process is pursued in a way that supports the efforts of the UN Secretary-General to make progress towards a political settlement on the island. The priority which the Union is giving to the issue is reflected in the appointment at yesterday's General Affairs Council of an EU representative for Cyprus.

My visit enabled me to familiarise myself at first hand with the situation on the island and the views and concerns of the Cypriot people. I had discussions with President Clerides, Foreign Minister Michaelides, the UN Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative in Cyprus, Mr. Gustave Feissel, and the leaders of the Turkish Cypriot community, including Mr. Denktash.
In all my discussions, I stressed the importance of using the window of opportunity offered by the prospect of EU membership constructively to facilitate the search for a political solution. I highlighted the potential of the EU, a community of democratic states based on the principle of union in diversity, as a framework for accommodating different identities. Membership of the Union could help to resituate the Cyprus question in a broader framework and to reinforce the existing guarantees of the position of the two communities. I indicated my willingness to assist the search for progress in support of the UN process and the EU pre-accession strategy for Cyprus and to share any aspects of our national experience which might be seen by the parties as relevant or helpful. While not drawing parallels between different situations, I explained the importance we attach from our own experience in relation to Northern Ireland to parity of esteem for each community and the need to reflect this principle in appropriate political structures.
I was pleased to be able to visit the Irish Army contingent serving with the United Nations Force in Cyprus, UNFICYP, and the Garda personnel attached to the UN civil police operation at Pyla. Except for a brief period in the 1970s, Irish personnel have served continuously with the UN in Cyprus since 1964. Their contribution to the security and welfare of the people of Cyprus is warmly appreciated on the island. It was clear from the many tributes paid to their professionalism and impartiality during my visit that they enjoy the full respect and confidence of both communities.