Cyprus FM Calls on Turkey to Recognize Cyprus

(–Turkey would find it very difficult to secure European Union (EU) accession without having any formal ties with fellow member Cyprus–Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou warned on Wednesday.

"Everyone in Europe says it would be extremely difficult for Turkey to proceed with its [EU] application without having any ties whatsoever [with Nicosia] and also maintain a hostile stance against Cyprus," said Iacovou.

He was responding to commen’s made by his Turkish counterpart–Abdullah Gul–who said Tuesday Ankara is considering steps to include Cyprus in a customs union between Turkey and the European Union–but that such a move would not amount to a recognition of the Greek Cypriot government.

"There is work under way on this issue–but this would never mean a political recognition," Gul told the NTV news channel.

Iacovou argued there were not just legal obligations but sound practical reasons for Turkey to create diplomatic ties with the Cypriot government.

"How can we take a position on issues raised when we don’t have an embassy in Ankara to be informed first hand as every other country does," queried the minister after meeting Dutch European Affairs Minister Atzo Nicolai here.

"An EU-member country can’t be denied the same possibilities afforded the rest," he added.

Iacovou said the Dutch EU presidency was "concerned" about Turkey’s approach towards Cyprus–such as not accepting Cyprus-flagged ships at its ports–opening of air corridors and the customs union.

Turkey entered into a customs union with the pan-European bloc in 1995.

The divided island of Cyprus–represented by its internationally recognized Greek Cypriot side–joined the EU on May 1. So far–however–it has been excluded from participation in the overall EU customs union with Turkey because it has no formal diplomatic ties with Ankara.

Brussels has put pressure on Ankara to resolve the issue.

A last-ditch effort to reunify Cyprus’ Greek and Turkish communities before EU accession failed in April when Greek Cypriots rejected a UN peace plan that Turkish Cypriots endorsed.

Cyprus has been split since 1974 when Turkey occupied the north in response to a Greek Cypriot coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

EU officials have said the customs union problem will not have a bearing on Turkey’s prospects of opening membership talks.

The Greek Cypriots–however–will have a say in the decision–to be taken in December–in their capacity as a member of the 25-nation bloc.


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