France's Chirac discusses EU enlargement with Cypriot president

French President Jacques Chirac met Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on Friday for talks on European Union enlargement, amid continued debate over whether Turkey should be granted full membership of the 25-member bloc.

Chirac told his counterpart he favored a U.N.-brokered solution "as rapidly as possible" to the conflict opposing the island's Greek Cypriot-controlled south and the Turkish-occupied north, the Elysee presidential palace said in a statement.

Papadopoulos is the first Cyprus president in 17 years to visit France in an official capacity.

He said he hoped the conflict would be solved before the end of Turkish accession talks, which are expected to last for some 10 to 15 years, and would depend on Turkey's fulfilling its obligations to the European Union.

"It is better for us that Turkey should look toward Europe than turn its back on it. But with one very important condition _ Turkey must fully respect its obligations to the EU and, therefore, toward Cyprus," he said, according to Le Monde newspaper's Friday edition.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 after an Athens-backed coup by supporters of union with Greece.

It refuses to recognize the government of Cyprus, which joined the EU last year, backing instead a breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state in the north of the island. The EU is insisting that Turkey include Cyprus in a free-trade agreement it has with the EU.

As an EU member, Cyprus has wide powers to freeze the membership negotiations, AP reported. V.A.

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