Tuesday, 3 February 2004

Questions (160)

Charlie O'Connor

Question:

289 Mr. O'Connor asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will present an update, in the context of Ireland's Presidency of the EU, on efforts to deal with the question of Cyprus; if he will outline his contacts in the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2819/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The United Nations plays the lead role in the search for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question. Recent efforts have been framed in the context of the forthcoming accession of Cyprus to the EU. The December 2003 European Council reiterated its preference for the accession of a united Cyprus to the Union on 1 May 2004. The Council urged all parties to give their strong support to the UN Secretary General's efforts and, in this context, called for an immediate resumption of the talks on the basis of his proposals. The Union reiterated its willingness to accommodate the terms of a settlement in line with the principles on which the EU is founded. Following a settlement the Union is ready to provide financial assistance for the development of the northern part of Cyprus.

In the weeks since the European Council, there have been a number of developments which have a bearing on the prospects for a comprehensive settlement. In northern Cyprus, following elections which gave an equal number of seats to parties in favour of a settlement based on the Annan plan and those opposed, a broadly pro-settlement administration has been formed under Mr. Mehmet Ali Talat, in coalition with Mr. Serdar Denktash. In Turkey, following an intensive consultation process, the national security council stated on 23 January that it had reached a consensus position in favour of negotiations taking the Annan plan as a reference and on the basis of the realities of the island. Prime Minister Erdogan discussed the situation with Secretary General Annan in Davos on 24 January and subsequently stated that Turkey supported the resumption of negotiations on the basis of the Annan plan, with a view to the approval of a settlement by referendum before 1 May.

The Government has maintained contact with the parties in recent weeks. I met yesterday in Dublin with the foreign minister of Cyprus, Mr. George Iacovou. I welcome his commitment to the resumption of negotiations on the basis of the Secretary General's proposals. I discussed the prospects for a settlement when I met the UN Secretary General in Brussels on 28 January. I assured him of the full support of the EU for his efforts. He has reiterated his view that the resumption of negotiations in the framework of his mission of good offices will only be possible if all parties demonstrate the political will to finalise a settlement on the basis of his proposals in time for the outcome to be put to separate referendums before 1 May. He has also stated that if the necessary progress is to be made in the time available, negotiations would have to be resumed.

The Government has maintained contact with the parties in recent weeks. I met yesterday in Dublin with the foreign minister of Cyprus, Mr. George Iacovou. I welcome his commitment to the resumption of negotiations on the basis of the Secretary General's proposals. I discussed the prospects for a settlement when I met the UN Secretary General in Brussels on 28 January. I assured him of the full support of the EU for his efforts. He has reiterated his view that the resumption of negotiations in the framework of his mission of good offices will only be possible if all parties demonstrate the political will to finalise a settlement on the basis of his proposals in time for the outcome to be put to separate referendums before 1 May. He has also stated that if the necessary progress is to be made in the time available, resumed negotiations would have to conclude by the end of March, to allow for the holding of simultaneous referendums on the island during April.

As Presidency, Ireland will support fully the role of the Secretary General, and the decision he must take in the period ahead on whether negotiations can resume. We will continue to encourage all parties to meet his requirements for the resumption of negotiations. If the Secretary General decides they can resume, the European Commission will play a direct role in the negotiations to ensure that, in line with the commitment given by the European Council, theacquis communautaire can accommodate the terms of a settlement. As Presidency, we will remain in close contact with the Secretary General in order to provide whatever assistance he requires to encourage a settlement in the short time available.