Turkey is Occupying Power - Christofias to Rompuy
Turkey is an occupying power in Cyprus which stubbornly refuses to honour its obligations under EU membership negotiations, said President Demetris Christofias speaking after his breakfast with President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy in Nicosia this morning.
Turkey aims at persuading public opinion on the need for timetables and arbitration in the Cyprus talks, and this cannot be accepted, he said.
"Cypriots have lived through bitter experiences of setting strict deadlines and arbitration which was not considered at all objective," said Christofias.
He was referring to the conditions leading up to the Annan Plan referendum in 2004, under which Cyprus leader Tassos Papadopoulos claimed he was forced into presenting the plan before the deadline of Cyprus joining the EU. At the time, Papadopoulos also criticised the plan - rejected by a majority of the Greek-Cypriots - as being biased in favour of the Turkish side.
"I stressed the need to put pressure on Turkey to change its stance and allow progress," said Christofias.
EU hopes for united Cyprus during 2012 presidency
In response, Rompuy said: "President Christofias briefed me on the Cyprus issue. The EU continues to fully support the efforts of the leaders of both communities in Cyprus and the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement as soon as possible.
He said he shared his hope that "when Cyprus takes over the rotating Presidency of the Council next year, we would like Cyprus to be a united island" and that he "encouraged the leaders of both communities to act in a spirit of compromise to find common ground on the remaining issues."
Broad range of issues discussed
Rompuy and Christofias discussed a broad range of issues, including Cyprus' 2012 EU presidency, and the president's recent visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. Christofias briefed Rompuy on the steps that Cyprus is taking to explore and exploit undersea gas and oil reserves off the island's coast.
The war in Libya and unrest in the Middle East were also discussed, said Christofias.
"At this stage, Cyprus has not been affected by the volatility in North Africa, but we follow with great concern the escalation of the crisis in the Middle East, which are traditional source and transit countries for the majority of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers," he said.
For this reason, it is important to strengthen the EU's border control organisation FRONTEX so it can carry out operations in the region, said Christofias.
"President Christofias and I agree that we need to develop new or improved partnerships with the countries in the Southern Mediterranean. Such cooperation should include building capacities in the area of border management and to cooperate in combating irregular migration and trafficking in human beings as well as on return and readmission," said Rompuy.
Rompuy affirmed that the EU will continue to show solidarity with Cyprus as well as with other Member States directly affected by large scale migratory movements.
"For your country the measures already include financial assistance as well as practical support through the activities of FRONTEX and the newly established European Asylum Support Office," said Rompuy.
Cyprus could be a conduit for information to and from southern Mediterranean countries and provide "added value" in promoting the objectives of the the EU, said Christofias.
"We are particularly concerned about hasty decision-making at the European level without having accurate information about what is actually happening on the ground," said the president.