France Pushes Ahead with Cyprus Question pre Turkey EU Talks

(AFP/RTE News)–French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy has raised the pressure on Turkey over Cyprus–saying it is inconceivable that a country seeking to enter the EU could fail to recognize all its members.

Turkey is due to start EU entry talks on October 3–but has angered the union by saying that its signing of a key EU protocol does not signify recognition of the Greek Cypriot government.

The EU recognizes the Greek Cypriot government of the divided island of Cyprus–while Turkey has long supported the breakaway Turkish Cypriot northern region.

"It is hardly conceivable that a country that is asking to enter a community refuses to recognize one of its members," Douste-Blazy told a conference of French ambassadors.

France "does not want to start a new crisis in Europe" but as an EU member it "is within its rights in asking Turkey to clarify its position" on Cyprus–Douste-Blazy said.

Turkey was high on the agenda of the ambassadors’ meeting–whose theme this year was the implications of the May 29 referendum in which French voters rejected the proposed EU constitution treaty.

Opposition by some French parties to Turkey joining the EU was used as an argument during the campaign for the constitution referendum–although the issue was unconnected with the treaty itself.

French President Jacques Chirac said on Monday Turkey had to clarify its stance on Cyprus and added it must offer assurances that it will carry out all its commitmen’s to the European Union. Chirac has promised to put the issue of Turkish membership to a referendum; the European Commission repeated on Monday its position that Turkey did not have to recognize Cyprus in order for accession talks to begin.

EU President Jose Manuel Barroso said in an interview published on Tuesday that no European Union members have suggested delaying the start of EU membership talks with Turkey.

"So far–no country has signaled to me that it wants to delay the start of talks [from the Oct. 3 target date]," Barroso was quoted as saying by Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

"The European Commission prepared a project of negotiations with Turkey. It is up to the countries in the EU to decide [to back it or not]," he said.

Douste-Blazy said France wanted to "respect its commitmen’s but expects Turkey and other candidate countries to respect theirs and satisfy the conditions for joining the Union.

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