Turkey defies European Union by refusing to accept Cypriot boats and planes
ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey defied on Thursday mounting European Union pressure to open its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and planes–saying they would remain closed despite the imminent start of Ankara’s EU entry talks.
Turkey–which is due to start EU entry talks on October 3–does not accept the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government and instead backs breakaway Turkish Cypriots.
But Ankara’s stance–including its refusal to admit Cypriot ships and planes–now threatens to harm its EU bid by providing ammunition to countries such as France and Austria that are skeptical about Turkish membership of the bloc.
"Ports and airports are in the services sector–this [opening] is expected only of full EU members," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told reporters at Ankara airport before flying to Britain to attend a meeting of EU foreign ministers. "This is different from what is expected of those negotiating [membership]… Let nobody play politics with Turkey."
Turkey recently signed a key protocol extending its customs union with the EU to new member states including Cyprus. But Ankara argues that the customs union covers only goods–not services such as shipping.
Turkey also infuriated Cyprus–France and some other EU member states by issuing a declaration explicitly stating that the extension of the customs union did not signal political recognition of the Greek Cypriot administration.
The EU is now expected to issue a counter-declaration and Cyprus has threatened to block the start of Turkey’s EU talks if the document is not tough enough.
Turkey says it has done all that is needed to start its accession talks and accuses some EU member states of exploiting the long-running Cyprus problem to block the negotiations.
"Turkey behaves honestly and expects honest behavior [from others]… If Turkey’s honest behavior is exploited on various issues then we can never accept this," Gul said.
The Cyprus issue is expected to dominate the two-day meeting of EU foreign ministers in the Welsh town of Newport.
Even if its talks begin on schedule next month–Turkey is not expected to join the EU before 2015 at the earliest.