George A. Papandreou - President of Socialist International - Former Prime Minister
George A. Papandreou - President of Socialist International - Former Prime Minister
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Reuters News-Interview with FM Mr. George Papandreou

Reuters, 15 December 2003


By Tomasz Janowski

ATHENS, Dec 15 (Reuters) - The Turkish Cypriot election can help revive the U.N.-led effort to reunite the island despite a looming government deadlock, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Monday.

While the bloc backing the U.N. plan made huge gains compared to previous polls and came in ahead of supporters of veteran leader Rauf Denktash, a complex electoral system left the rival groups with the same number of seats in parliament.

"If you look at the vote you have a clear majority of Turkish Cypriot citizens voting in favour of change, in favour of settlement and in favour of Europe," Papandreou told Reuters.

"I think the signal (for Ankara) is quite clear," he said.

The split vote in northern Cyprus, which is recognised only by Turkey, appeared to dampen hopes of a quick deal that would allow Cyprus to join the European Union next May as a reunited island.

For Turkey the stakes are high as the EU has made clear that failure of the reunification talks could imperil its own hopes of starting entry talks with the wealthy bloc in early 2005.

Ankara views the fate of the eastern Mediterranean island as an issue of national security and its role as guardian of ethnic Turks against the Greek Cypriot majority.

Papandreou, credited for doing much to improve Greek-Turkey relations over the past few years after centuries of enmity, appealed to Turkey to view settlement as a chance, not a threat.

"My feeling has always been that the decisions on Cyprus have been very much coloured by a fear of the Turkish military ...that the situation in Cyprus can be a security risk," he said.

"What I have stressed again and again is that a Cyprus which will have a peaceful solution and is a part of the EU, and with Turkey moving towards the EU, is the best guarantee of security for Turkish Cypriots and for Turkey."

Talks on the U.N. peace plan, which proposes a loose federal state with broad autonomy for the two communities, collapsed in March.

Denktash said on Monday the enclave would hold a fresh election in two months if a stable government could not be formed.

Tomasz Janowski

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