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EU`s Juncker to make first visit to Cyprus

 European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is to start his first official visit to Cyprus on Thursday for talks on the bailed-out island`s economy and the UN-brokered peace process.



Nicoasia: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is to start his first official visit to Cyprus on Thursday for talks on the bailed-out island`s economy and the UN-brokered peace process.

He is to meet President Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader, to discuss the economy and how Cyprus can benefit from European investment.

"Energy questions and progress in the Cyprus talks will also feature high on the agenda," the Commission said in a statement.

Juncker will also meet Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to discuss "how the Commission can better help the Turkish Cypriot community to prepare for the period" after a settlement.

He and the divided island`s rival leaders are to have a working lunch together inside Nicosia`s UN-controlled buffer zone.

On Friday, Juncker is to wrap up his trip with an address to parliament.

"I am visiting Cyprus at a time when there is a unique opportunity to achieve a lasting, comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue," he said in the statement.

The rival leaders said last week that any UN-brokered peace settlement would be based on European Union principles.

A divided Cyprus joined the EU in 2004 after a failed peace plan which effectively saw European law only applied in the government-controlled south, not the island`s Turkish-held north.

Long-stalled UN-brokered peace talks -- in what is seen as the best chance in years to reunify Cyprus after four decades of division -- were launched on May 15.

Cyprus is also emerging from a harsh bailout deal signed with international creditors in 2013 that resulted in a haircut on deposits, the closure of its second largest bank and capital controls.

Nicosia has been praised by lenders for introducing harsh austerity and not flinching from a tough reform programme, with hopes now high that it will exit a three-year recession in 2015.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

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