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#Cyprus: A settlement in Cyprus would be a message of hope for all of Europe, says Schulz

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Schulz_cyprusThe European Parliament fully supports current efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue, President Martin Schulz said on Wednesday 30 March on an official visit to the country, adding that a window of opportunity now exists for a historic step forward for Cyprus and the wider region.

At the end of his two-day visit to the island on 29-30 March, the President said Cyprus could become a "message of hope" for all of Europe and promised that Parliament would stand by the country in a post-settlement era.

Following a meeting with Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades, Martin Schulz said: "I am here to offer my full support to the remarkable progress made in Cyprus, especially in the last year. Parliament will stand by Cyprus."

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President Anastasiades remarked: "President Schulz and I agree that the problem of Cyprus is a European one and that the solution must be in line with the principles and values of the EU. The European Parliament's contribution is paramount and the visit of President Schulz is extremely important."

President Schulz visited Cyprus on an invitation by the speaker of the Cypriot House of Representatives Yiannakis Omirou. Following his meeting with Omirou, the President noted that the Cyprus issue, the Turkish accession negotiations and the refugee crisis are entirely separate questions.

The President also met the Turkish Cypriot community leader Mustafa Akinci as well as party leaders and UN representative Espen Barth Eide. While in Cyprus he held a television debate with young people from the Greek and Turkish-Cypriot communities.

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Commission welcomes next step on the approval of the recovery and resilience plans of Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia

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The European Commission has welcomed the positive exchange of views on the Council implementing decisions on the approval of national recovery and resilience plans for Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia held on 26 July, at the informal videoconference of EU Economy and Finance Ministers (ECOFIN). These plans set out the measures that will be supported by the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The RRF is at the heart of NextGenerationEU, which will provide €800 billion (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across the EU. The Council implementing decisions will be formally adopted by written procedure shortly.

This formal adoption will pave the way for the payment of up to 13% of the total allocated amount for each of these member states in pre-financing. The Commission aims to disburse the first pre-financing as quickly as possible, following the signing of the bilateral financing agreements and, where relevant, loan agreements. The Commission will then authorise further disbursements based on the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones and targets outlined in each of the Council Implementing Decisions, reflecting progress on the implementation of the investments and reforms covered in the plans.

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France calls Turkish-Cypriot move on ghost town a 'provocation'

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French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks during a news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, France, June 25, 2021. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

France on Wednesday (21 July) criticized as a "provocation" a move by Turkish Cypriot authorities to partially reopen an abandoned town in Cyprus for potential resettlement, in the latest critique from the West that Ankara has dismissed, write Sudip Kar-Gupta in Paris and Jonathan Spicer in Istanbul, Reuters.

Turkish Cypriots said on Tuesday (20 July) that part of Varosha would come under civilian control and people would be able to reclaim properties - angering Greek Cypriots who accused their Turkish rivals of orchestrating a land-grab by stealth. Read more.

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Varosha, an eerie collection of derelict high-rise hotels and residences in a military zone nobody has been allowed to enter, has been deserted since a 1974 war split the island.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (pictured) discussed the matter with his Cypriot counterpart on Tuesday and will raise the topic at the United Nations, a spokesperson for Le Drian's ministry said.

Cyprus is represented in the European Union by an internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government. France presides over the U.N. Security Council this month.

"France strongly regrets this unilateral move, upon which there had been no consultations, which constitutes a provocation and harms re-establishing the confidence needed to get back to urgent talks over reaching a fair and long-lasting solution to the Cypriot question," Le Drian's spokesperson said.

The EU, the United States, Britain and Greece also objected to the plan unveiled when Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan visited Nicosia on Tuesday. He called it a "new era" for Varosha, on the island's eastern coast.

Turkey's foreign ministry said the EU's critique was "null and void" since it is disconnected from realities on the ground and favours Greece, an EU member. "It is not possible for the EU to play any positive role in reaching a settlement to the Cyprus issue," it said.

Peace efforts have repeatedly floundered on the ethnically split island. A new Turkish Cypriot leadership, backed by Turkey, says a peace accord between two sovereign states is the only viable option.

Greek Cypriots reject a two-state deal for the island that would accord sovereign status to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state that only Ankara recognises.

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Cyprus talks can resume only on two-state basis, Erdogan says

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) has said peace talks on the future of ethnically divided Cyprus can take place only between "the two states" on the Mediterranean island, in comments sure to further annoy Greek Cypriots and the EU, write Jonathan Spicer in Istanbul and Michele Kambas.

Turkish Cypriot officials also announced plans for the potential resettlement of a small part of the now abandoned Greek Cypriot suburb of Varosha on the island's east coast.

That move too is likely to infuriate Greek Cypriots as essentially staking ownership over an area the United Nations says should be placed under the control of peacekeepers.

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"A new negotiation process (to heal Cyprus' division) can only be carried out between the two states. We are right and we will defend our right to the end," Erdogan said in a speech in the divided Cypriot capital of Nicosia.

He was marking the anniversary of a Turkish invasion on July 20, 1974, days after a Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the military then ruling Greece. The island has remained split ever since into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north.

Greek Cypriots, who represent Cyprus internationally and are backed by the European Union, reject a two-state deal for the island which would accord sovereign status to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state that only Ankara recognises.

Decked out in red-and-white Turkish and Turkish Cypriot flags, the celebratory mood in north Nicosia on Tuesday stood in stark contrast with a sombre mood in the south, where Greek Cypriots were woken by air raid sirens marking the day Turkish forces landed 47 years ago.

Although the United Nations has grappled inconclusively with Cyprus for decades, the dispute has come into sharper focus due to competing claims over offshore energy reserves and the recent re-opening by Turkish Cypriots of part of Varosha to visitors.

Varosha has been a Turkish military zone since 1974, widely viewed as a bargaining chip for Ankara in any future peace deal.

On Tuesday, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said his administration would scrap the military status of about 3.5% of Varosha and allow beneficiaries to apply to a commission mandated to offer compensation or restitution of properties.

A spokesman for Cyprus's internationally-recognised government said authorities would be briefing the EU and the United Nations Security Council on the matter.

The sealed-off area includes 100 hotels, 5,000 homes and businesses previously owned mostly by Greek Cypriots.

Turkish Cypriot authorities opened up part of it to the public in November 2020.

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