Turkey Warns EU It Could Seal Division of Cyprus

Gurel claims EU report on Turkey unfair

ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkish Foreign Minister Sukru Sina Gurel said on Wednesday the European Union could seal the division of Cyprus if it admitted the Mediterranean island without a deal to reunite it.

The European Commission issued a report on the progress of 13 candidate countries on Wednesday–saying that 10 countries including Cyprus would be ready to join in 2004. The report disappointed Turkey by saying that it was not ready even to start membership talks.

"I hope there’s still room to find a solution but I’m afraid that the EU with all its declarations and decisions has been limiting that prospect," Gurel told Reuters in an interview.

"The EU has been the side which has been discouraging the Greek Cypriots from finding a solution at the table–and I’m afraid if the EU goes on the same track they will be finalizing the division of the island–shutting the door to any possibility of a solution and putting the stamp of the EU on that."

Cyprus has been effectively partitioned since Turkey invaded in 1974 in response to an Athens-backed Greek Cypriot military coup aimed at union with Greece. Only Ankara recognizes the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash and Greek Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides started a fresh round of UN-backed face-to-face talks in January. Progress has been slow and few expect a breakthrough in the run up to a general election in Turkey on November 3.

Ankara has in the past threatened to annex the northern part of the island if the EU admits Cyprus without a solution. It has also accused Brussels of not giving the Greek Cypriots any incentive to find a solution.

Gurel said the EU report on Turkey was not a ‘fair’ assessment of progress made towards meeting the criteria for membership talks–and he still expected the EU to set a date for talks at its December summit in Copenhagen.

"Turkey has met all the criteria and I’m sure this will be fully assessed and evaluated by those people responsible for the future of not only Turkish EU relations but the future of Europe," Gurel said.

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