Turkey warns against Greek Cypriots' EU Presidency

09:20, July 14, 2011      

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Turkey warned EU on Wednesday that relations between EU and Turkey would freeze if Greek Cypriots took over European Union (EU) Presidency in 2012 before a solution over Cyprus dispute is reached.

Ankara conveyed to the EU that Turkey would not officially address Greek Cypriots, a EU member which Ankara does not officially recognize as a state, if it takes over the EU presidency, a Turkish official said.

"If the Greek Cypriot administration delays negotiations and takes over the EU term presidency on its own, Turkish-EU relations would freeze," Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters on Wednesday while EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule was paying a visit to Ankara. "It will be out of question for Turkey to accept the Greek Cypriot administration as an interlocutor. We do not believe that Turkey and the EU can continue relations in a situation where the Greek Cypriot side assumes the EU presidency before a solution is found over Cyprus," said Davutoglu.

This measure is to find a solution in Cyprus problem till the end of 2012, which will lead to a new unified state, will take the EU Presidency, the minister said. The EU and Greek Cypriots were facing a choice between two visions, he added.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey militarily intervened and occupied the north of the island following a coup by a group of Greek officers.

Greek Cypriots joined the EU in 2004 as state Cyprus, but only the internationally recognized south could benefit from the membership.

After numerous U.N.-mediated attempts for reunification collapsed, a new round of U.N.-mediated talks between all parties has been taking place since 2008, but the talks failed to produce remarkable progress.

However, Cyprus dispute also hampers Turkey's EU bid. As Turkey does not recognize Greek Cypriots as a state, nor does it allow Greek Cypriot vessels to enter its ports.

The EU asks Turkey to meet its pledge to open up its ports to Greek Cypriots as part of a 2005 agreement known as the Ankara protocol. However, Ankara asked the EU to end its embargo to Turkish Cypriots.

Out of the 35 chapters of the EU-Turkey negotiations for membership, Ankara could only open 13 since the negotiations began in 2005. Eight chapters remain frozen as a sanction for Turkey's refusal to open its ports to Greek Cypriot vessels. France and Cyprus are also blocking several other chapters.

"It is time for taking strategic decisions in Turkey-EU relations," Davutoglu said, reiterating Turkey was determined to get EU membership. "Yet the EU should also display the same determination," he said.

As a respond to the Turkish foreign minister who lashed out at the Union, EU Commissioner Fule said it was not the right time to make these statements. "Because this term is a right time to accelerate Turkey-EU relations, reform process and membership negotiations," he said.

Holding a joint press conference with Turkey's EU Minister and chief negotiator Egemen Bagis on Wednesday, the EU commissioner said a consensus was targeted in Cyprus by the end of this year to ensure that president of the EU will be the president of a united Cyprus in the second half of 2012. Yet, Fule has repeated his calls to Turkey to implement the additional protocol.

Despite Turkish Foreign Minister's harsh remarks, Turkey's EU negotiator emphasized upcoming EU presidency of Greek Cypriots in a softer tone.

If a divided Cyprus takes over the EU presidency, there would be no change from Turkey's aspect but rather similar to the one during the Belgian and Hungarian presidencies when Turkey could not open any chapters.

Evaluating on Davutoglu's remarks, in case of EU Presidency of Greek Cypriots, relations with EU Presidency would freeze, but, it would not affect relations with EU Commission, the EU negotiator told CNNTurk news channel on Wednesday.

Visiting Turkish Cypriot part of the island on the weekend, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu stated that Turkish side targets an agreement on Cyprus by the end of this year, leading to a referendum on the divided island early 2012 and a united Cyprus by the second half of 2012. Davutoglu said Turkey wants European support to help persuade the Greek Cypriots for solution.

Following a tripartite meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu and Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias last week in Geneva, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that he expected Cypriot leaders to ramp up talks and to reach agreement by October on all core issues.

Source: Xinhua
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