NICOSIA, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has named Leopold Maurer to be his representative at the UN Good Offices Mission in Cyprus to assist in reunification talks.
"This designation follows a request by the United Nations and is a further demonstration that President Barroso and the European Commission are committed to supporting the Cyprus settlement process," the European Commission said in a statement Friday.
Maurer, who was head of an EC team negotiating Cyprus' accession to the EU, will provide advice to the UN Good Offices Mission on EU-related matters, the statement said.
Cyprus welcomed the appointment, which showed "upgraded interest" of the commission in the Cyprus problem and the efforts for a solution, said government spokesman Stephanos Stephanou.
He added that the Greek Cypriot side had sought an active role of the EU in the UN-led comprehensive talks.
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008, with a view to solve the problem of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.
The eastern Mediterranean island has remained divided since 1974 when Turkey militarily intervened and occupied the north of the island following a coup by a group of Greek officers.
The Republic of Cyprus entered the EU in May 2004, but only the Greek Cypriot south can enjoy the benefits. The breakaway Turkish Cypriot north has to rely on financial support from Turkey. The Cyprus problem has also been a major obstacle to Turkey's bid to join the EU.
Cyprus President and Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008 in a renewed effort to end the decades-old division.
During a visit to the island in June, Barroso said the EU will support the talks between Christofias and Talat, adding that the alliance would consider financial assistance if the two leaders reach a deal on reunification.
The EU chief urged the two leaders to grasp the "unique chance" this year to solve the long-standing problem.