Luxembourg PM Proposes Freezing EU Talks with Turkey

PARIS (Reuters)–The European Union should freeze membership talks with Turkey if Ankara does not open its ports and airports to traffic from Cyprus this year–said Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker Thursday.

It was the clearest signal so far that some leaders will seek a complete halt to the negotiations if Turkey does not fulfill its obligation to extend its EU customs union to all new member states–including Cyprus–which it does not recognize.

Juncker was asked by the French daily La Croix whether the EU had shown weakness by agreeing to conclude the first detailed accession negotiations on science and research this week without a move by Turkey on Cyprus.

"No. European ministers firmly reiterated to the Turks that this condition should be applied in 2006," he said.

"If Turkey were not to implement this condition this year–my view is that the negotiations will have [to] be postponed."

Turkey has said it would open air and sea access to Cypriot planes and ships if the EU made good on a promise to end the economic isolation of Turkish Cypriot northern Cyprus. The EU has rejected any linkage between Ankara’s treaty obligation and its own political pledge–which Nicosia has so far impeded.

Officially–the EU has not threatened a complete suspension of talks if–as expected–Turkey does not meet the condition.

Foreign Ministers said this week "Failure to implement its obligations in full will affect the overall progress in the negotiations" without specifying how.

The executive European Commission is due to review Turkey’s performance in a report in late October or early November and Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has warned of a potential "train crash."

Juncker–a veteran center-right politician close to Germany’s governing Christian Democrats–suggested the EU would have to reconsider further expansion in the light of the defeat of the EU constitution in France and the Netherlands.

"Anyhow–Croatia aside–I think that it will probably not be possible to continue the enlargement process without limits and precautions if we do not manage to restore order to European institutions," he told La Croix.

"A large-scale enlargement does not seem feasible to me on the sole basis of the current treaties."

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