ELDR President Sir Graham Watson MEP today led a delegation of eight MEPs to Northern Cyprus, where he met Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu, leaders of the Turkish Cypriot political parties and leaders of business and non-governmental organisations.
Sir Graham said: "Liberal Democrats deeply regret that, as Cyprus prepares to take on the rotating presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers, the island is still divided and the Turkish Cypriots still denied the rights and privileges of EU citizenship."
"We hope we may be able to use the occasion of the presidency to draw wider public attention to their plight and persuade the Greek Cypriot people to show the friendship and solidarity implicit in EU membership and necessary to end their isolation."
The delegation travelled on to meet ministers of the Republic of Cyprus in Nicosia. In the wake of an Amnesty International report which accuses the Republic of failing to meet international standards on the hosting of refugees and asylum seekers they quizzed the interior minister on her plans to develop EU policies in this area.
Sir Graham asked what the government would do to ensure that Turkish Cypriots could participate in the next European Parliament elections on the island and expressed his concern at the unwillingness of the minister to consider extending to them the mechanism which allows their representation within the Cypriot delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Tonight Sir Graham, who is the leader of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party, and Liberal International President Hans van Baalen MEP will take their colleagues to meet leading members of the island's Liberal party, the United Democrats.
Tomorrow the delegation will visit the island's Parliament, in which only Greek Cypriots are currently represented, and will meet Mr Christofias, President of the Republic.