NEWS

Cyprus joins EU, hopes for a ‘new start’

Cyprus joined the European Union, along with nine other countries, on Saturday in one of the most important milestones in the island’s rich history. But the joy of being one of the European Union’s 25 members was tempered by the fact that Cyprus remains divided, something which President Tassos Papadopoulos, EU leaders and Turkish Cypriots all expressed. After the accession ceremony in Dublin, Papadopoulos said he wished the UN’s blueprint for reunification, which he had campaigned against, had allowed a united Cyprus to join the EU. He declared his continuing desire for a solution. Mehmet Ali Talat, leader of the Turkish-Cypriot administration in the breakaway state, leaves for New York today where he will meet with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The meeting with Powell will be the highest level US contact with the Turkish Cypriots and indicates the magnitude of support the latter have garnered by backing the reunification plan. Because of the Greek-Cypriot «no,» they will not enjoy the full benefits of EU membership. President George W. Bush praised the positive stand taken on Cyprus by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a telephone call to the Turkish leader, White House spokesman Scott McLellan said yesterday. «The two leaders recognized the sovereign right of the Greek Cypriots to reject the settlement, but shared disappointment that an historic opportunity for a united Cyprus to enter the EU on May 1 had been missed,» McLellan said. On his way to Dublin, Erdogan suggested Ankara might end its policy of refusing to recognize the Republic of Cyprus. «The world recognizes it. By me saying ‘I don’t recognize it’ – what can you do? These are meaningless things,» Erdogan said. «We don’t ever want to clash or conflict with the realities of the world.» Erdogan and Papadopoulos had a brief talk and, according to Greek news reports, the Turkish prime minister expressed the wish for a «new start» in relations. UN mediator Alvaro de Soto told the Athens News Agency that it was up to the Greek-Cypriots to decide whether they would accept the UN plan.