Cyprus backs Serbia to start accession talks by year end
(BELGRADE) - Cyprus, which holds the EU presidency until December, hopes that Serbia will obtain a date to open accession talks with the 27-member block by the year's end, its foreign minister said Wednesday.
"We want to see this candidacy lead... at the end of this year and the end of our presidency, to a decision by the European Council on the start of negotiations with Serbia," Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis told reporters.
The minister visited Belgrade "to convey the messages... regarding the way forward and what needs to be done in order for a positive decision to be taken on the start of the accession procedure," by the EU Commission and Council.
Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic told Kozakou-Marcoullis that it was important for Belgrade to obtain the date quickly.
"Accession to the EU is a strategic goal of Serbia's foreign policy because it guarantees new perspectives for our economic development," Nikolic said in a statement released after the meeting.
The key condition that Serbia has to meet in order to obtain the date for opening the accession talks with Brussels is improvement of relations with the breakaway territory of Kosovo.
Cyprus is one of only five EU member states that has not recognised the independence of Kosovo, unilaterally proclaimed in February 2008 despite fierce opposition from Serbia.
Like Belgrade, Cyprus also faces secession since Ankara occupied the northeastern part of the island in 1974. Turkey is the only state that has recognised the Turkish north as an independent republic.
Kozakou-Marcoullis said her country would keep its position on Kosovo, but it would be a "objective mediator" during its presidency of the EU Council.
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