Papadopoulos meets Blair

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British Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged to do whatever possible to assist in efforts to find the right way for Cyprus’ reunification.

Speaking after meeting Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos at 10 Downing Street, Blair underlined his support to Turkey’s candidacy to join the EU, but stressed that the rules for any country to get into the EU have got to be clear and he hoped that he can make progress towards this tomorrow during talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On his part, President Papadopoulos countries said the two countries although have differences on political issues, there is the common aim for making renewed efforts to bring about the reunification of Cyprus.

He also said the two countries agreed to make a concerted effort to continue the dialogue in various issues which will revive and strengthen their good relations.

Asked about direct flights to the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus which is recognised only by Ankara, Blair said “we want to try to get things as quickly, as normal as possible. But these things have to be dealt with in a diplomatic way. I am sure there will be an opportunity for us to deliberate on them in the months to come, particularly we have seen the President today and we are seeing the Prime Minister tomorrow. For the moment I will stick to that pace”.

To a question whether Britain can help to normalize relations between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey, the PM said “everybody wants the same things but they have different views on how to get them. Everybody wants a reunified island for the very reasons that the president has just given. Everybody wants I think it is right to say, Turkey inside the EU. The question is how we put them together”.

The British PM said “it is very much in everybody’s interest that this takes place. When there was a suggestion that Cyprus should not get into the EU without a solution, Britain said no, you cannot make it a precondition”.

He noted “we want reunification to take place and one of the things we will try to explore, and I am very happy to do whatever I can to assist in that process, is how we find the right way”.

Referring to Turkey’s European aspirations, the British Prime Minister said “the rules for any country to get into the EU have got to be clear. The same for all countries”.

That is why tomorrow, he said, he hopes “we can make progress towards the Turkish side because we believe it is right for Turkey to come into the EU. Obviously it has got to be on the basis of the criteria being met. And this is part of the discussion we are having. Can we find a way through all these difficulties? I hope so”.

Referring to his discussions with President Papadopoulos, Blair said they discussed the EU agenda “and I expressed the hope that we will be able to come to an agreement (as EU)”.

He said they also discussed issues relating to Cyprus “and the very obvious things you expect us to talk about it. The discussion how it is possible to make progress towards reunification, whether we can find the right way for doing that”, he said, adding they also examined the forthcoming discussions he will hold with the Turkish PM tomorrow.

“One thing that emerged very strongly since we also discussed bilateral relations, I expressed my admiration for the work that the Greek Cypriot community does in this country”, the Prime Minister said and thanked him for the work of the community which, he added, is greatly appreciated.

Referring to bilateral relations, Blair said it is important for him to “sure that our bilateral relationship becomes stronger. I am certainly very committed to doing that”.

On his part, President Papadopoulos thanked Blair for the invitation and said “Britain and Cyprus traditionally have excellent relations in many fields, tourism commerce and other fields”.

“We have our differences on political issues, mainly those dealing with the Cyprus problem but with a common aim of making renewed efforts in bringing about the reunification of Cyprus”, he said.

The Cypriot President said he stressed that Cyprus wants to have “excellent relations in every field” with Britain and announced that the two countries “agreed to make a concerted effort in a structured way of continuing the dialogue in various issues which will revive and strengthen even more our good relations”.

Answering a question by a Turkish journalist when the reunification talks will begin again and whether the President is confident that Turkey will recognise the governent controlled areas of the republic, President Papadopoulos said “more and more the idea that it simply cannot be a divided Cyprus is not accepted”.

He said “Cyprus is too small and too integrated as a society and as an economy. It is not acceptable to anybody to think of a dividing solution. I think reunification will begin basically from the people who want to feel the benefits of reunification, and secondly through the UN talks on the basis of a really reunited country, economy, society and the institutions”.

President Papadopoulos said the issue of recognition is one of the issues very much debated in the EU and elsewhere. “I think it will be unthinkable for a state wanting to join the EU to state from the beginning that it does not recognise one of the states of the Union which it aspires to join. It is a difficult diplomatic issue but I am sure reason will prevail”, he concluded. (CNA)