- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Good news for Cyprus

Cyprus is no closer to unification than it has been in the last 27 years. The leader of the Turkish-Cypriot regime in the north continues to refuse talks with the Greek-Cypriot government in the south.

But there is good news for the divided Mediterranean island. Cyprus at least the Greek part is now the leading candidate for membership in the European Union.

"This is the only positive thing that is going on at this point," Cypriot Ambassador Erato Kozakou Marcoullis said yesterday over lunch at her residence with editors and reporters of The Washington Times.

She said the Greek-Cypriot administration, the internationally recognized government of Cyprus, has completed the requirements in 17 of 29 categories for EU membership.

Cyprus expects to complete the rest by the middle of next year. That will mean the government will have met 50,000 pages of regulations that often require major legal changes in areas such as agriculture, taxation, human rights and the environment.

"That's a very ambitious goal, but I think we will make it," Mrs. Kozakou Marcoullis said.

Cyprus leads Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia which have also been invited to join the EU.

Mrs. Kozakou Marcoullis said she regretted there is no progress in negotiations with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey.

Rauf Denktash, president of the breakaway republic, broke off U.N. talks, saying they were a waste of time. He refuses to rejoin the negotiations until Cyprus gives his government equal diplomatic recognition.

Mrs. Kozakou Marcoullis said she believes that Cyprus' rapid progress toward EU membership may help bring pressure on Mr. Denktash to renew talks or be left out of the economic benefits of the European market. The EU has said it will accept Cyprus even if it remains divided.

She said some newspapers and politicians on the Turkish side are questioning Mr. Denktash's position, and some political leaders in Turkey are worried that Turkey's own quest to join the EU will be jeopardized as long as the Cyprus issue remains unresolved.

"This is something both Turkish-Cypriots and Turkey are beginning to realize," she said.

Mrs. Kozakou Marcoullis expressed hope that Turkish-Cypriots will accept the solution advocated by the United Nations for a union of the two sides under a common government.

"I tell you the Cyprus issue is much easier than the Middle East," she said. "The pieces of the puzzle are there. If there is good will we can do it."

Argentine visitor

President Bush has invited the president of Argentina to come to the White House for a working visit on April 19.

President Fernando De la Rua would be visiting Mr. Bush "just in advance of the Summit of the Americas" in Quebec City, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday.

"The United States and Argentina share a broad agenda of common interests and values in the hemisphere and beyond, and the president looks forward to reviewing ways to strengthen cooperation in pursuit of common goals," he said.

Defending Taiwan

The U.S. ambassador to China yesterday defended U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and Washington's criticism of China's human rights record.

Ambassador Joseph Prueher told students at Beijing University that any reunion of democratic Taiwan with communist China "must be peaceful."

"We do not want Taiwan to get run over," he added in defense of arming the island.

He also explained that the United States is legally bound to sell Taiwan enough weapons to defend itself. He cited the Taiwan Relations Act among other commitments.

The ambassador said the Bush administration's decision to sponsor a resolution at the United Nations condemning China's human rights record is aimed at "improving human rights in China, not criticizing China."

"What we have done in the past is critique without dialogue," he said of past criticism of China's human rights. "In the future, I hope we can critique, probably both ways, and dialogue to effect positive change in human rights."

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