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09 July, 1997
US presidential emissary Richard Holbrooke believes Cyprus' accession talks with the European Union could facilitate efforts towards a settlement of the protracted Cyprus problem.
Calling on the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities to "take advantage of this unique opportunity", Mr. Holbrooke pointed out that Cyprus could be "the Singapore of the eastern Mediterranean".
Speaking after a 90-minute long meeting with President of the Republic Glafcos Clerides, Mr. Holbrooke repeated earlier statements that "I am not here today to negotiate", noting that "this is the UN week".
"The US fully supports Secretary General Kofi Annan's efforts and I look forward to seeing the president next week at the end of the meetings at Troutbeck", he added.
Asked to comment on threats by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to turn the occupied areas of Cyprus into an autonomous part of Turkey , Mr. Holbrooke said "the US is very strongly in favor of an undivided Europe and the US strongly supports Cyprus ' accession talks with the EU".
Invited to say if accession talks could facilitate US efforts to find a solution, Mr. Holbrooke replied: "I think it is a very positive thing, the US strongly supported the addition of Cyprus to the list of the countries that would be considered first a nd the economy of Cyprus demonstrates clearly that Cyprus is ready for membership".
"I think Cyprus has a unique economic opportunity to be the Singapore of the eastern Mediterranean and when I say Cyprus, I mean both communities and I hope people of both communities take advantage of this unique opportunity", he told the press.
Asked by CNA to identify what the US would consider progress in this first round of talks, Mr. Holbrooke said he was not prepared to "comment on those things" and added, "ask President Clerides anything to do with UN talks in his business, I will not be there".
Replying to other questions, the American envoy said he would discuss with President Clerides his plans for precise dates for a trip to Cyprus at their meeting next week.
He also refrained from commenting on Mr. Denktash's warning that the US would fail in its efforts for a settlement in Cyprus unless it recognizes the pseudostate in occupied Cyprus.
"I did not see the interview", Mr. Holbrooke said when invited to comment on Mr. Denktash's statement to this effect in a recent interview.
On his part, President Clerides said he did not think it was "very useful" to reply to questions and added "we are going to negotiate, we are going to talk in order to find a solution and I think any statements made before we sit around the table are not helpful".
On Monday afternoon Mr. Holbrooke met Mr. Denktash at the Turkish Cypriot leader's hotel, the UN Plaza.
Speaking to the press after his meeting with Mr. Denktash, the US official said he had a private conversation with the Turkish Cypriot leader and added: "I am not here as a negotiator. This is just a 'get re-acquainted' session, and I look forward to the outcome of the talks". He also said the US is supporting the UN process.
Asked if he had any advise for the two sides on how to proceed in the talks, Mr. Holbrooke said the talks are confidential and refrained from giving any further details.
Invited to say if he submitted any ideas on the talks' agenda, Mr. Holbrooke said "no, this is a UN meeting. I am just here to get updated on the situation".
Commenting on press remarks that the US is keeping a low profile in these talks, the US emissary noted that "these (talks) are Kofi Annan's event and we are supporting him and his special representative Diego Cordovez".
He also said he will again meet Mr. Denktash next week.
Source: Athens News Agency