EU mulls Turk-Cypriot trade link

The European Commission will propose next month that the EU establishes direct trade links with the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus, a senior official said in Brussels yesterday. EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen told a press conference that it is among Brussels’ priorities to put an end to the occupied territories’ economic isolation. This follows the acceptance by the Turkish Cypriots, during an April 24 referendum, of a UN reunification plan which the Greek Cypriots voted against on the same day. One week later, Cyprus entered the EU divided. «The idea is to find a solution that will not only facilitate trade between the northern part and the Republic of Cyprus, but will also allow direct trade from the northern part of Cyprus to the EU,» Verheugen said. He was speaking after the end of talks between EU officials and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on Turkey’s EU prospects. The proposal is expected to be tabled in June, probably toward the end of the month. The EU has already approved 259 million euros in economic aid to the occupied north. A Commission source was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying the question of establishing direct flights between the EU and the north of Cyprus would depend on individual member states. After the meeting with Gul, Verheugen described a constitutional reform package passed by the Turkish government this month as a very important step forward. Gul said Turkey had done its best in pushing for Turkish-Cypriot acceptance of the UN peace plan, and called for rewards for the occupied north. «Now it’s time to end the unfair treatment of the Turkish Cypriots,» he said.

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