Fri, Sep 16, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Cyprus the key in EU-Turkey talks

AP , BRUSSELS

EU ambassadors failed to find a breakthrough on a joint negotiating position for Turkey's membership talks and could not agree on a common response to Ankara's refusal to recognize EU member Cyprus.

Britain and France narrowed their differences and presented a joint draft declaration which said the member states "regret that Turkey felt it necessary to make a declaration" in July noting its refusal to recognize the government in Nicosia.

It warned that if Turkey did not allow Cypriot ships or planes "full" access, negotiations could be halted on all transport-related issues.

The draft added that "prior recognition of all member states is a necessary component of accession. Accordingly, the EU underlines the importance it attaches to the normalization of relations between Turkey and all EU member states, as soon as possible."

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded the island following a short-lived coup backed by the supporters of union with Greece. Ankara supports the Turkish-Cypriot breakaway state in the north of the island, and not the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government in the south.

The EU argues that any country wishing to join the bloc must recognize all 25 EU members.

Cyprus is demanding Turkey recognize its government and wants a specific deadline for recognition during the entry talks. Britain, which holds the EU presidency, was trying to get a deal on the joint position before the planned opening of membership negotiations with Turkey on Oct. 3.

France, Austria and Cyprus have expressed reservations over talks with Turkey. France and Cyprus have demanded Turkey recognize the Mediterranean island. Austria is pushing for the EU's proposed negotiating mandate to contain a clarification that the outcome of talks should include a lesser option of a "partnership" between Ankara and the EU.

Turkey's entry negotiations are likely to last at least a decade. Diplomats have said the talks could be frozen if Turkey does not move toward recognizing Cyprus or fails to live up to human rights and political reform commitments.

Cyprus threatened on Tuesday to block Turkey's accession talks.

Meeting the last precondition to opening entry talks, Turkey signed a deal in July extending a customs union with the EU to include Cyprus and nine other countries that joined the bloc last year.

Ankara said by signing, it had met all demands for membership talks. However, it upset many EU governments by issuing a separate declaration stating its signature did not mean it recognizes the Cypriot government.

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