Finland to Hold Turkey EU Accession Meeting At Weekend

BRUSSELS -(Dow Jones)- The Finnish presidency of the European Union said Tuesday it will host a crisis meeting on Turkey’s accession to the bloc this weekend, as negotiations over Turkey’s membership stumble. Turkey and officials from both sides of divided Cyprus have been invited to the meeting, which will be officially announced later Tuesday, Matjatta Hiekka, a Finnish official in Brussels said. The meeting will take place in or near Helsinki. "We have to try to get a solution" to overcome obstacles to progress in the talks, she said. The meeting will discuss both Turkey’s obligations to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot vessels and aircraft and discuss the EU’s own commitmen’s to end the isolation of Turkish Cyprus. Under a September 2005 agreement that set the preconditions to Turkey’s E.U. accession talks, Turkey must open its ports and airports to E.U.-member Greek Cyprus. Under that deal, the E.U. also agreed to unspecified steps establishing direct trade links with the breakaway Turkish Cypriot republic in the north of the island. Turkey is insisting the opening of those direct links is a precondition for it to open its air and sea ports to Greek Cypriot planes and ships EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in a recent interview "there is no direct link between the Turkish obligations under the Protocol with rules concerning the direct links (with northern Cyprus)." The current Finnish presidency of the E.U. is pushing a compromise proposal that would include steps to end northern Cyprus’ isolation. According to Tuesday’s Financial Times, a leaked Commission draft report on Turkey’s accession is sharply critical of Ankara for not making enough progress on freedom of expression, curbing the use of torture and establishing civilian control over the military. "It is not a secret that Turkey has not proceeded as expected," Hiekka said. She said while the Commission’s report is very critical, it "has to be put in the right perspective." The main aim of the report is to give a better idea of what has been achieved as well as highlight any shortcomings, she added. Discussions on Turkey’s accession are expected to come to a head at an E.U. summit in December. Finland is holding a six-month rotating presidency of the European Union until the end of the year. In other news, the European Commission declined to comment on a press report that it will conclude that would-be EU member Turkey has failed to make enough progress on freedom of expression, curbing the use of torture and establishing civilian control over the military. "There is no final report and I am not commenting on reports that may have been leaked to the press," spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy said. Financial Times Deutschland quoted a commission official as saying: "We would have hoped that Turkey would have delivered a lot more during the past 18 months, certainly since the beginning of negotiations in October last year."

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