Turkey Slams EU Sanctions While Cyprus Welcomes Them

ANKARA (AFP)–Turkey has denounced as "unfair" a European Union decision to slow down its troubled membership talks, while the Cyprus government said it was satisfied with a European Union agreement to sanction Turkey over its failure to respect an obligation to normalize trade with the island. Turkish leaders accused the 25-member bloc of "lacking vision" on this secular Muslim nation’s role in East-West relations and urged Brussels to throw its weight behind efforts to resolve the Cyprus conflict, which lies at the core of the current turmoil. EU foreign ministers agreed in Brussels late Monday to freeze Turkey’s accession talks in eight of the 35 policy areas candidates must complete, in response to Ankara’s refusal to open its sea and air ports to Cyprus under a customs union accord. The European-Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy voiced its concern that the EU foreign ministers only focused on the Cyprus issue and did not cover issues pertaining to the treatment of minorities in Turkey or concerns stemming from the Armenian Genocide recognition question. "The Member States’ decision confuses–rather than clarifies–the EU’s the relations with Turkey,", declared Hilda Tchoboian, the Chairperson of the European Armenian Federation. "The Council can only restore Europe’s credibility in this area by fixing a reasonable deadline for Turkey’s ratification of the Protocol." The Federation regrets the silence of Member-States regarding Turkey’s many other failings – such as its denial of the Armenian Genocide and its criminalization of speech recognizing this crime, as well as violations against the Kurds and other the cultural and religious rights of minorities. These constitute a clear affront to European values. The Federation stresses that, along with Turkey’s refusal to ratify the Ankara Protocol, it continues to violate its own agreemen’s regarding the European Neighborhood Policy by refusing to lift its illegal blockade on Armenia. "We regret that pro-Turkish governmen’s within the Union have succeeded in pressuring those within Europe who are working to ensure that Turkey–in spirit and in practice–adopts European values and standards. It is the right and responsibility of all European citizens to take a stand against those who would grant Turkey undeserved access and privileges at the expense of European values and to the detriment of Europe’s future."Despite all our good will, this decision is unfortunately unfair treatment of Turkey," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech in parliament Tuesday. "This decision fails to reflect the level that Turkish-EU relations have reached," he said. "It also contradicts the objective (of full membership) that we have determined together with the EU." The sanctions, to be formally adopted at an EU summit Thursday and Friday, came as a blow to Turkey’s bid a little more than a year after membership talks got off to a turbulent start in October 2005 amid widespread public opposition in Europe to the country’s membership. Erdogan slammed "EU foreign policy" and criticized Brussels for failing to recognize Turkey’s importance in a "global perspective."In the absence of such vision, problems like Cyprus are damaging our relations," he said. The EU decided that Turkey can open membership talks in policy areas other than the eight chapters that were suspended, but cannot formally complete them as long as the dispute over Cyprus remains unsolved. EU officials say Ankara’s membership talks could resume quickly as three chapters — on economic and monetary union, financial control and industrial policy — are technically ready to be opened. "The conclusions of the (EU foreign ministers’) council to a large degree meet those basic aims that we had set," government spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis told a news briefing Tuesday. Pashiardis said the foreign ministers of Cyprus and Greece with help from other EU counterparts "fought a tough battle" to neutralize a bid by some bloc partners preferring a more lenient approach to Turkey’s refusal to open its ports to Cypriot traffic. "We are not gloating over this result. But we are neither underestimating its significance… We’re not saying this document is having us quiver with emotion, but it certainly doesn’t leave us disappointed." Cyprus and its ally Greece were the most vociferous in initially calling for harsher sanctions against Ankara but eventually fell in line. "If we were alone to decide the EU position, we would have been tougher but we’re not alone," Cyprus Foreign Minister George Lillikas told state television. Lillikas rebuffed suggestions the Cyprus government was "abandoned" by like-minded EU allies, saying the deal is proof that Nicosia enjoyed widespread backing to hold Ankara accountable for its refusal to live up to its obligations. "If Turkey doesn’t comply, then it’s logical that the EU would take harsher steps than it has already taken," said Lillikas. In an effort to avoid further angering Turkey, the ministers also agreed to discuss ending the isolation of northern Cyprus during ministerial talks next month. The Greek Cypriot government holding the southern two-thirds of Cyprus is internationally recognized as having sovereignty over the whole of the island but does not control the northern third, where a Turkish Cypriot government is recognized only by Ankara.

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