NEWS

Cyprus sure of a good EU report

Cyprus’s top negotiator in European Union membership talks said yesterday he expected a favorable progress report on the island’s accession bid next month, followed by a firm invitation in December to join the 15-state union. «We are progressing well… I am certain the European Commission report which will be given to us in Brussels on October 9 will be very positive for Cyprus,» former Cypriot President George Vassiliou told journalists in Nicosia. On the basis of the annual progress report, EU leaders will decide at a Brussels summit on October 24-25 which of the mostly ex-communist candidate members will join the next wave of enlargement. «Based on the facts that we have before us today, I can state for sure that on December 14 in Copenhagen, the Council will approve Cyprus’s accession to the EU with the remaining nine countries,» Vassiliou said. The EU has clarified that although it would prefer ongoing peace talks between Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to have produced a peace settlement before the Copenhagen summit, their failure to do so would not prevent the island’s accession. Turkey says it will annex the occupied northern section of Cyprus if the island joins the EU while still divided, and has hinted it could start a military confrontation with Greece. In Athens yesterday, United Nations envoy for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto said that although Clerides and Denktash have failed to reach a preliminary agreement «all is not lost.» «I think that a settlement is still a distinct possibility,» he told journalists during a joint press conference with Foreign Minister George Papandreou. «There are some deep gaps still dividing the two sides, but the secretary-general and I are convinced that it is possible to bridge them.» At the end of this week, de Soto is due in Ankara to sound out the Turkish government on Cyprus ahead of the planned October 3-4 meeting between Clerides, Denktash and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York.(Combined reports)