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European Union leaders announced late Friday the indefinite postponement of a key summit with Japan intended to launch crucial free trade negotiations next week because of the mounting debt crisis in bankruptcy-threatened Cyprus.
"It is with regret that we have decided to postpone next week's EU-Japan summit," EU Council and Commission heads Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso said in a surprise statement.
"The ongoing efforts to find a solution for the financial situation of Cyprus require our presence in Brussels," the pair said, as three separate sources confirmed the staging of a face-to-face meeting of eurozone finance ministers from 5:00 pm (1600 GMT) on Sunday in Brussels.
"We reiterate the importance of EU-Japan strategic relations and would like to thank Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe for expressing his understanding," the permanent Brussels figureheads said in the release.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will maintain his diary date in Tokyo on Monday, the duo underlined.
"We look forward to the rescheduling of the summit at the earliest possible opportunity," they added.
The EU is feverishly trying to broker bilateral trading agreements with its major global rivals and leading world economies the United States and Japan, but the threat of default and eurozone expulsion for little Cyprus has raised the spectre of major contagion across financial markets.