Cyprus Says EU Can Stop Accession Talks with Turkey

NICOSIA (Reuters)–EU member Cyprus said Wednesday that the European Union has the ability to pull the "handbrake" on accession talks with Turkey if presented with reason to do so.

The reminder came as diplomats prepare for a showdown with Turkey this year over Cyprus–represented in the bloc by a Greek Cypriot government not recognized by Ankara.

"There is no country which does not want Turkey to negotiate its accession to the EU. There is no country which is prepared to stop negotiations unless there is a very serious reason," said Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos at a meeting with foreign correspondents.

Turkey opened accession talks with the EU last October and its progress will be assessed this year.

Talks–however–are expected to be complicated by ethnically divided Cyprus–partitioned in a Turkish invasion in 1974 in response to a brief Greek coup.

Cyprus is represented in the European Union by a Greek Cypriot government that is at odds with a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north whose closest ally is Turkey.

Pending a peace settlement on Cyprus–where prospects appear dim after the failure of a UN reunification bid in 2004–Turkey is unlikely to establish diplomatic relations with the Nicosia government.

It is however likely to come under increasing EU pressure to lift a ban on Cypriot ships and aircraft.

Papadopoulos said Turkey’s EU talks contained the provision for using the "handbrake" but he adopted a cautious tone when asked if Cyprus wanted the bloc to use it should Ankara maintain its ban.

"That depends on the attitude of Turkey," he said.

Britain is a key player in Cyprus reunification attempts and one of the most vocal supporters of Turkey’s bid to join the EU.

But Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s planned visit next week is immersed in controversy over Greek Cypriot objections to the venue for a planned meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader.

Shrugging his shoulders–Papadopoulos said he "didn’t know" if Straw still planned to visit the island.

When new reunification efforts will begin is unclear–but Papadopoulos said the UN acknowledged any effort must be well prepared.

Asked what would be required to return to talks–he said: "An invitation from the (UN) secretary-general… nothing else–since he accepts that talks need to be well prepared."

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