Thursday, 12 February 2004

Questions (19, 20)

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

14 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the extent to which agreement has been reached on the Cyprus issue in the context of the forthcoming European enlargement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4336/04]

View answer

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

66 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps being taken either bilaterally or through the EU to encourage a resolution of the Cyprus problem. [4100/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 14 and 66 together.

I welcome the initiative of the UN Secretary General to invite the parties to resumed talks on the basis of his proposals for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem. The talks, involving the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot leaders, opened in New York on 10 February. Their resumption offers a real opportunity to achieve the historic objective of the accession of a united Cyprus to the European Union on 1 May 2004. I hope all parties will engage in the process constructively and with determination to reach a settlement on the basis of the Secretary General's proposals.

The accession of a united Cyprus on 1 May remains the clear preference of the EU. The December 2003 European Council urged all parties concerned, and in particular Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership, to strongly support the Secretary General's efforts and, in this context, called for an immediate resumption of the talks on the basis of his proposals. The Council reiterated its willingness to accommodate the terms of a settlement in line with the principles on which the EU is founded.

I welcome encouraging signs of progress since the European Council. The Government has remained in contact with the parties concerned to encourage movement to meet the Secretary General's requirements for the resumption of negotiations. Most recently, I met in Dublin with the Foreign Minister of Cyprus, Mr. George Iacovou, on 2 February. I also discussed the prospects for a settlement with the UN Secretary General when I met him in Brussels on 28 January. I assured him of the full support of the EU for his mission of good offices. The European Commission will play an integral role in resumed negotiations to assist a speedy solution within the framework of the acquis.

In the weeks ahead, Ireland as EU Presidency will remain in contact with the Secretary General, who has the central role in the search for a comprehensive settlement. We are ready to assist in whatever way he may require to encourage agreement. The time available is short if agreement is to be reached and put to simultaneous referenda in Cyprus before accession on 1 May. Difficult compromises will be required on all sides. However, it is the strong view of the Government that the accession of a united Cyprus is in the interests of all the people of the island, of Greece and Turkey and of the European Union.