NEWS

EU aid move pleases Cyprus

Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos yesterday expressed his satisfaction with a European Union decision to release 139 million euros in blocked funding to the Turkish Cypriots after distinguishing the issue of aid to the island’s Turkish-occupied north from that of direct trade with it. The wording of the agreement, which is expected to be ratified by European foreign ministers today, has reportedly provoked concern among Turkish Cypriots, who object to a reference to Greek-Cypriot proposals concerning access to the occupied town of Famagusta. «This is the first time, after so many years, that the issue of the return of Famagusta has become an issue for discussion by the European Union,» Papadopoulos said yesterday. Questioned by reporters about his scheduled meeting in Paris with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Papadopoulos said that they would not set a date for the relaunch of peace talks but examine the best way of laying the groundwork for a new initiative. Cypriot government spokesperson Giorgos Lillikas on Saturday told a local radio station that Friday’s decision by the EU’s Council of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) effectively puts a stop to the «fairy tale of Turkish-Cypriot isolation.» «It is now down to the Turkish Cypriots to open up the port of Famagusta according to the provisions set down by COREPER,» Lillikas said, refering to Turkey’s refusal to honor an EU customs agreement by allowing Cypriot ships access to Turkish ports. Meanwhile, Greece’s Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis has stressed that a Cyprus solution «must be practical on a domestic level but also within the framework of the European Union.» «Reality demands that fresh negotiations take into account the European acquis communautaire,» Bakoyannis said in an interview with yesterday’s Vima newspaper. Questioned about Greece’s support for Turkey’s EU bid ahead of an expected visit to Athens by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Bakoyannis said it was «considered and clear… but not unconditional.»