The Republic of Cyprus strongly supports Serbia`s efforts to join the European Union, President Demetris Christofias, said on Monday, expressing the hope that there will not be any “new excuses to delay the commencement of Serbia`s EU membership talks”.

After official talks with Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, who is paying an official visit to Cyprus, Christofias wished that the arrest of Ratko Mladic by Serbian security services and his extradition to the war crimes court in Hague, would contribute to reconciliation in the Balkans.

The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding on the issue of the European integration of Serbia.

The President also stressed that the Republic of Cyprus does not recognize and will not recognize Kosovo.

“The solution must be based on mutual bilateral consultation which will lead to an agreed settlement which will respect the territorial integrity of Serbia and will be adopted by the UN Security Council“, he said.

At the same time, he expressed deep gratitude to Serbia for the based on principles it maintains regarding the Cyprus problem and it’s firm support, saying that the country’s positive contribution is expressed through participation in the peacekeeping force of the United Nations in Cyprus.

The positions of Serbia on Cyprus problem he said, “are based on the respect for international law, the United Nations Charter and the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council. “

Christofias briefed the Serbian Prime Minister on the latest developments on the Cyprus problem and the forthcoming meeting with UN Secretary-General on 7 July. He also expressed hope that during the meeting Turkey will move from theory as to its political will to support the ongoing talks aiming to a solution of the Cyprus problem, to practical steps on the negotiations table.

On his part, Cvetkovic underlined the importance Serbia attaches to its cooperation with Cyprus and expressed the hope that this cooperation will further develop in the future.

He also said he hopes that Cyprus will be able to help his country on the road to the European Union, especially during its Presidency of the EU in the second half of 2012.

Cvetkovic expressed his country`s gratitude for Cyprus’ principled position on the issue of Kosovo and Metohija and stressed that Serbia supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Cyprus and the efforts of President Christofias for a solution of the Cyprus problem based on the principles of international law.

Furthermore, Cvetkovic referred to the economic cooperation between the two countries, saying that it should be promoted in order to become more efficient in the future. He added that tomorrow`s meeting of businesspersons from both countries will help to strengthen bilateral economic relations in areas such as tourism and construction industry.

Asked if the arrest of Ratko Mladic has helped accelerate the integration process of Serbia to the EU, the Serbian Prime Minister said that his country wants above all to join the EU and expressed hope that they could be much more optimistic in the future.

Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army commander, was captured in Serbia after 16 years on the run. He is accused of orchestrating the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica during Bosnia`s war in 1995. Mladic`s arrest was a condition the EU had set Serbia on starting EU pre-membership talks.

Cyprus was divided after the 1974 Turkish invasion. UN led talks are underway between President of the Republic Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu in an effort to reunite the island under a federal roof.

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