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BRITISH MINISTER for Europe Caroline Flint yesterday welcomed the “real progress” in the ongoing peace talks, and urged the two leaders to maintain the momentum so Cyprus, the EU and Turkey could all benefit from a solution.

Speaking at a press conference in Nicosia yesterday, Flint described President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat as “dedicated to finding a solution”.

“Basically, the two leaders are engaged in a process which is not easy, not an easy situation, but they are showing leadership to take control and try and find a solution,” she said.

Flint welcomed the regularity of the meetings between the two, noting that 18 meetings had taken place since the last time she visited Cyprus.

“Hopefully in the coming months more progress can be made, and all countries supporting the process, including Turkey, will do whatever we can to make sure it’s a success.”

Flint ruled out imposing deadlines but warned that the present opportunity for a solution was “not infinite”.

“It’s really important that the talks maintain a good momentum, and are not allowed to drag on,” she said.

Ruling out direct British involvement, the minister said London was trying to be helpful by supporting bicommunal activities such as the environmental forum that Flint had attended earlier.

The Minister for Europe referred to the often discussed possibility of confidence building measures and the need for a debate in civil society on the economic, social and environmental benefits of a solution.

Apart from providing peace and stability, a solution would also mean that “the EU can have a relationship that can only grow, and resolve some of the difficulties” that the Cyprus problem presents.

Effectively, a Cyprus solution would clear some of the obstacles in the way of Turkey’s EU accession, which meant Turkey also had to gain from a solution.

“And I think it’s important that Turkey does demonstrate how it supports a settlement. They’ve said that publicly on a number of occasions, and I hope over 2009 they can demonstrate that even more,” said Flint.

Flint met both Christofias and Talat and Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou during her brief stay on the island. She also visited one of the minefields being cleared by the Mine Action Center, where she handed over a cheque for €50,000 euro.

“This is important work vital to the normalization of the situation on the island”, she said, adding “it is essential that it receives the funding to continue”.

By Stefanos Evripidou, Cyprus Mail, February 11, 2009
|||Flint warns opportunity for a solution not infiniite
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