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'Turkish Cypriots Want to Join EU,' says European Council Chief - 2003-12-20

European Council Secretary-General Walter Schwimmer says last Sunday's general elections in Northern Cyprus clearly expressed the desire of Turkish Cypriots to join the European Union next May.

Mr. Schwimmer says everybody who wants a solution to the 29-year-old division of Cyprus has every reason to be optimistic.

"One should never be pessimistic, in particular not after the Turkish community has decided themselves in a way which could promise peace and reconciliation and reunification of the island," he said. "I had the impression that there is a will to find solutions, there is a will for reconciliation and the window of opportunity in my view is still open."

Interviewed by VOA, Mr. Schwimmer said there is no time to lose. He said the European Council is ready to offer any kind of technical and political support for a solution in Cyprus.

The election last Sunday showed an even split between those who favor a plan proposed by the United Nations for reunification with the Greek Cypriot south and those who support leader Rauf Denktash, who has rejected the plan.

Many members of the European Parliament have expressed concern over the ongoing Cyprus dispute. Charles Tannock, a member of the European Parliament, told VOA he was disappointed that the election failed to give a clear victory to the opposition in Turkish Cyprus.

"I was hopeful that Mr. Denktash would have been defeated and therefore there would have been a fresh opportunity following the election to re-negotiate and have a sort of fast track entry for the whole island to join up as a united federal state, as one country, on May 1, next year," he said.

Turkey and the northern part of Cyprus are due to lay out proposals next week on resolving the division of Cyprus.

If there is no solution, Cyprus will join Europe next May and the dividing Green Line that separates the two communities will represent the de facto limit of the European Union.