EU Enlargement Chief Urges Turkey to Move on Cyprus, Reforms

ANKARA (AFP)–EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule urged Turkey on Monday to open its ports to Cyprus and push ahead with reforms at home to boost its limping membership talks with the bloc.

“I had the opportunity to underline the importance the European Union attaches to the need for Turkey to fully implement the additional protocol… and normalize its relations with Cyprus,” Fule told reporters after talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Turkey has refused to implement the protocol to open its air and sea ports to Cyprus, an EU member state, until the EU moves on its pledge to ease the international isolation of the island’s breakaway Turkish-held north.

Ankara also refuses to acknowledge the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government until the island’s division is resolved.

Turkey’s stance prompted the EU in 2006 to freeze Ankara’s accession talks in eight of the 35 policy areas, known as chapters, which candidate countries must successfully negotiate prior to membership.

Fule underlined that the problem would ease if peace talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots since September 2008 led to a solution.

“We agree that a comprehensive settlement on Cyprus would be a historic breakthrough to the benefit of both Turkey and the EU,” he said.

Davutoglu said his country’s membership talks should not be overshadowed by “political problems that have no direct link to the EU process, such as Cyprus”.

Underlining his commitment to see Turkey as an EU member, Fule also called on Ankara to press on with reforms in order to ease its entry into the bloc.

“We are in full agreement on what remains to be done and the challenges ahead,” he said.

Turkey’s chief EU negotiator Egemen Bagis said Ankara would accelerate the reform process, adding that the cabinet was would on Monday discuss an action plan on the steps to be taken in 2010-2011.

Fule also voiced support to normalization efforts between Turkey and Armenia to overcome a century of hostility Ottoman Turkey’s genocide of 1.5 million Armenians.

Turkey began EU membership talks in 2005, but has so far opened negotiations in only 12 policy chapters.

Besides the row on Cyprus, Turkey’s bid has been slowed down by Ankara’s sluggish pace of reform as well as opposition from some EU-member states to allow such a large and largely Muslim nation into the bloc.

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