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‘Cyprus problem and refugee crisis should remain separate’ (Update 3)

Cyprus negotiations, the refugee crisis and Turkish EU accession are three different elements which should not be combined, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz said on Tuesday during an official visit to the island.

“I want to make one thing clear,” he said, “there are three separate things. The Cyprus solution is one, the refugee crisis is another and Turkish accession to the EU is a third.”

Schulz was welcomed by President Nicos Anastasiades at the presidential palace on Tuesday morning.
Later he had a private meeting with Anastasiades, which was delayed due to the hijacking of the Egyptian plane in the morning.

“It is much different to experience such an act of terror at first hand than just seeing it on a screen,” he said, “I hope it is possible to prevent such acts of terrorism with the help of international cooperation.”

Both Schulz and Anastasiades strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in Brussels and the hijacking of the plane in Cyprus and expressed mutual support and solidarity.

He went on to say that we live in a time when there are many problems in the EU and the EU is in a deep crisis on many levels. However, there has been a lot of progress on the Cyprus solution, more than anybody thought two years ago.

“A solution here in a time of deep crisis, multiple crises, is a signal of hope and a signal of courage,” Schulz said, a signal of “the role a unified Cyprus could play as a stabilising element in the whole region.”

He said the European Commission is 100 per cent behind a solution.

Anastasiades thanked Schulz for his strong support to the efforts underway.

“The government of Cyprus is following with great interest the developments concerning the adoption of the European Parliament’s Resolution on 2015 Progress Report on Turkey, which is expected to be discussed at the European Parliament’s plenary session next month,” Anastasiades said. “It provides an opportunity to convey an unequivocal message that it is high time for Turkey to fulfil its obligations vis-à-vis the EU which will pave the way for progress in Turkey’s European path.”

Schulz then moved on to parliament, where he addressed a special session. “I am here to listen, understand and learn,” Schulz said, “not to give lessons and we are available to you if you believe we can contribute constructively.”

“We have achieved significant progress, and we want very much, of course, to conclude an agreement as soon as possible – possibly before the end of this year,” Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said after a meeting with Schulz, referring to the Cyprus problem talks.

“We will be working hard and are very glad to see the continuation of the strong support of President Schulz personally, as well as institutionally.”

Elaborating on the status of the ongoing negotiations, Akinci said significant progress has been made on four ‘headings’, with two – territory and security – not yet been touched on.

“The understanding is that in the first four headings, we will be trying to narrow the gap in the remaining issues as much as we can, and the mutual understandings to become convergences,” he said.

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