EU Says Not Right Time for EU talks with Turkey, Cyprus

HELSINKI (Agenece France Presse)–Finland expressed its regret Thursday that the European Union had to cancel a meeting between Turkey and Cyprus over the issue of the divided island, but said contacts would continue to reach a solution. The Finnish EU presidency had called a meeting in Helsinki on November 5 and 6 of the foreign ministers Abdullah Gul of Turkey and George Lillikas of Cyprus, and their counterpart Turgay Avci from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Ankara. "Our aim has been to find a solution that enables the uninterrupted continuation of Turkey’s accession negotiations and improves the situation of both communities in Cyprus," Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said in a statement. "To this end, we have been prepared to arrange a round of talks between the Presidency and all parties in Finland. Unfortunately, this has not been possible before the Commission’s next report on Turkey will be issued on November 8, but our efforts to find a solution naturally continue," he said. The European Commission is set to deal a blow to Turkey’s EU membership hopes next week with the publication of a key report, which criticizes Ankara’s pace of reform and its stance on Cyprus, according to European sources here. It had been hoped that the Finnish initiative could allow for some last minute tweaking of the Commission report, to be issued on November 8. Tuomioja said the Finnish EU presidency had had discussions with the three parties on issues "concerning Turkey’s accession process and questions related to direct trade between the EU and the northern part of Cyprus." Tuomioja is scheduled to meet with Mehmet Ali Talat, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot Community, in Brussels on Friday. As a EU member Cyprus has the right of veto over Turkey’s bid for EU membership.

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