The European Union will wait for a solution to the Cyprus problem right up to April 16, the day the island and nine other countries will sign an accession treaty, the commissioner in charge of enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, said yesterday. He stressed that if a divided Cyprus joins this will jeopardize Turkey’s own chances of accession. «The efforts to reach a settlement on the unification of Cyprus will continue right up to the signing of the treaty. But let me be clear on one point. With or without a settlement, Cyprus is expected to accede to the EU by May 1, 2004,» Verheugen told a seminar with British parliamentarians in London. «Our preference is clear. We hope that it will be a united Cyprus that we will welcome as member,» Verheugen said. «The UN proposal on the table would benefit all Cypriots. It would also bring peace and stability to Cyprus and the whole region,» he added. «Turkey is also well advised to reflect on the consequences of a non-settlement for its EU aspirations. I made this point very clear at my recent visit to Turkey. After May 1, 2004 they would face a situation where Turkey does not recognize one of the EU’s member states. It is difficult to see how it would be possible to start accession negotiations under such circumstances,» Verheugen said. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who has criticized UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s proposal for referendums by Greek and Turkish Cypriots on his plan, if their leaders do not agree to it, faced more problems yesterday. In a closed-door debate ahead of a vote on Friday, several members of the ruling center-right National Unity Party expressed support for a referendum later this month. This could swing the vote in opposition parties’ favor in the breakaway state’s self-styled parliament.