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Direct trade regulation not an issue for now (updated)


By Stefanos Evripidou

THERE is no issue at present of re-tabling the EU regulation on direct trade with the north, government spokesman Christos Stylianides said on Thursday, after reports surfaced last week that the European Commission was seeking to bring the contested issue back on the agenda.

Speaking after a meeting between President Nicos Anastasiades and EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule in Brussels, the spokesman said the two discussed developments in Ukraine, the EU’s enhanced role in the Cyprus peace talks, confidence-building measures (CBMs) and the issue of direct trade between the EU and the occupied areas.

“The issue (of direct trade) is exclusively linked to the proposal made by the president on the Turkish occupied town of Famagusta and it is being discussed as such,” said Stylianides.

“It has been made absolutely clear that re-visiting this regulation is a non issue for the Directorate-General for Enlargement at this point,” he said.

Anastasiades has invested a lot in a CBM package proposal which will see the fenced-off area of Famagusta returned to its mainly Greek Cypriot inhabitants under UN control, the opening of Turkish-controlled Famagusta port to international trade under EU supervision, implementation of the Ankara Protocol for Cyprus-flag ships and aircraft, and the lifting of Cyprus’ veto on a number of Turkey’s EU accession negotiation chapters.

The spokesman said he believes the international community has widely accepted the fact that Famagusta is the most important CBM for the Greek Cypriots as it would bring a real impetus to the peace talks, and facilitate new cooperation between the two communities.

Stylianides added that the two also discussed the upgraded role of the EU, noting that the personal representative of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at the UN-sponsored talks, Pieter Van Nuffel, has a dual role to play.

He needs to evaluate proposals submitted at the negotiating table by both sides on their compatibility with the EU acquis.

At the same time, he has a “very important role” to play in familiarising the Turkish Cypriot community with the body of EU laws that exists, and on questions like what the EU means, what is acceptable within the EU, allowing more time to be saved in the negotiations process, said Stylianides.

Anastasiades is in Brussels for a European Council meeting, the conclusions of which are expected to include a special reference to the Cyprus peace talks.

In its draft conclusions, the European Council points out that the division of Cyprus has gone on for far too long and places emphasis on maintaining the momentum, adding that it is ready to play a role in supporting the negotiations and any CBMs agreed by the two sides.

According to Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris, when asked about the possibility of Van Nuffel participating in the talks, Turkish Cypriot negotiator Kudret Ozersay said the European Commission representative was not a new arrival to the island.

“Van Nuffel is doing today what he has been doing in the past,” he said.

Ozersay argued that the EU representative’s job was to provide technical support on the issue of increasing convergences under the EU chapter of the talks and helping out within the EU context on some confidence-building measures.

Ozersay is in Washington where he met with US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and her deputy Eric Rubin.

Referring to press reports regarding the return of the Annan plan, he told Kibris that Greek Cypriots should not worry “because the Annan Plan is not on the table”, and neither should Turkish Cypriots because changes are not being made to the plan to make it more palatable to the Greek Cypriots.

“What will come up, if this process ends successfully, is a new solution agreement which will establish a new partnership,” where the rights, benefits and costs of a solution will be balanced, said Ozersay.

Meanwhile, outgoing Special Adviser on Cyprus Alexander Downer met briefly with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday in New York, to say a brief goodbye.

Ban asked Downer to submit a report in April with his recommendations on the peace talks, including whether he feels it would be useful to appoint someone to replace him or whether his duties can be fully undertaken by UN Special Representative in Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim.

Downer is expected to arrive in Cyprus next Tuesday to bid farewell to the leaders of the two communities and associates, before taking up the post of Australian High Commissioner to London.

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