Written Answers. - Cypriot Conflict.

Willie Penrose

Question:

51 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the discussions, if any, he has had with the Greek Foreign Minister on the Cyprus issue; and, if so, the basis of these discussions. [22156/98]

On 19 and 20 October last I made a very useful bilateral visit to Greece at the invitation of Foreign Minister Pangalos. During the course of my visit we had wide-ranging discussions covering a number of bilateral, EU-related and topical international issues. Our discussions included the important question of Cyprus and specifically the prospects for progress being made towards a settlement in the light of the UN Secretary-Generals recent initiative.

At the end of September last the Secretary General had meetings in New York with President Clerides of Cyprus and Mr. Rauf Denktash, leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. The Secretary General proposed that his Deputy Special Representative, Dame Ann Hercus, should develop a process of contacts on the island with both parties with the goal of reducing tensions and promoting progress towards a just and lasting settlement. Both leaders expressed their support for the process and promised to co-operate in a constructive and flexible manner. On 16 October last, Dame Hercus launched her confidential shuttle talks with President Clerides and Mr. Denktash. The Secretary General will report on the process to the Security Council in December.

Ireland, together with Greece and other EU partners, fully supports the efforts of the United Nations to achieve a political solution to the Cyprus question based on a bi-communal, bizonal federal approach. In this regard we have offered every support to the renewed efforts of the Secretary Generals Deputy Special Representative.

We also hope that the opening of EU accession negotiations with Cyprus will provide both an incentive and an opportunity for serious efforts to find a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus question. Along with the majority of our EU partners, we would wish to see a united Cyprus accede to the Union. As recommended by the Luxembourg European Council in December 1997, the Government of Cyprus issued an invitation to the Turkish-Cypriot community to participate in the Cypriot delegation for accession negotiations. Although this invitation has, to date, been declined, it is hoped that continued efforts and sufficient political will can enable an acceptable formula to be found. Ireland strongly believes that membership of the EU will provide both communities on the island not only clear benefits in economic development but also safeguards on security, and respect for the rights of each community.