Turkey Regrets EU’s ‘Injustice’

(Combined Sources)–Turkey has described a European Union (EU) declaration criticizing Ankara’s refusal to recognize Cyprus as unjust–one-sided–and politically motivated.

The bitter words from foreign ministry spokesman Namik Tan come less than two weeks before Turkey and the EU are due to begin talks on Turkish membership.

The EU declaration said that Turkey would have to recognize Cyprus before it could join the EU–a process which analysts say may take 10 years or probably much longer.

"We regret the publication of this counter-declaration. It has a style which does not accord well with the traditional spirit of co-operation that has existed between Turkey and the EU over a period of more than 40 years," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tan said.

The European Union told Turkey on Wednesday it must eventually recognize EU member Cyprus and said the bloc would review progress on this in 2006–removing an obstacle to opening accession talks with Ankara on October 3.

The statement–forged after days of haggling among the EU’s 25 members–responded to Turkey’s refusal to recognize Cyprus–where it keeps some 35,000 troops since intervening in 1974.

"The agreement? paves the way for a smooth adoption of the negotiating framework and thus the opening of the accession negotiations with Turkey," said EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn.

The EU must still agree the negotiating framework that will provide the ground rules for opening talks with the sprawling Muslim nation of 72 million–whose potential entry has unnerved some leaders and many among the public in Europe.

It also calls on Turkey to open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels and planes–which Ankara has failed to do–even though it has extended its customs union agreement with the EU to 10 new members–including Cyprus.

"If the accord is not implemented in the first six months of 2006–questions will be asked from Turkey why it has not done so," Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou told reporters in Nicosia.

He also called on the EU to keep promises to lift the economic blockade against northern Cyprus and to provide financial aid to the region.

The declaration ignored the "rights and expectations of the Turkish Cypriot people" Tan said–describing it as a "serious injustice."

Turkish officials say the EU’s efforts to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots have been blocked by Cyprus–a member of the EU since May 2004.

The EU declaration came in response to an earlier declaration by Turkey in July–saying that its extension of a customs union with the EU to all new member states did not imply recognition of Cyprus. Since then–Turkey has continued to block Cypriot ships and aircraft from its ports and airports.

Turkish newspapers on Thursday reflected a mood of frustration with the EU. "The growing mood is such in Turkey that if the government were to announce that it will suspend relations with the EU–the support it would get from the public would soar," foreign affairs commentator Semih Idiz wrote in the English-language Turkish Daily News.

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