ATHENS (Hurriyet)–Only days after the EU foreign ministers’ warning over Ankara’s ‘failure’ to open its ports to shipping from Greek Cyprus, Greece’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas says although Turkey has a place in the bloc, it is not the Turkey of today.
The deputy foreign minister of Greece said although Turkey had a place in the European Union, the country that would gain accession to the bloc is not the Turkey of today or a Turkey that plays with the thought of an Ottoman past.
In an interview with the populist weekly Greek newspaper Proto Thema, Dimitris Droutsas said he considered the recent meeting of the EU foreign ministers in Brussels a success. He added it was the first time that the EU had recognized the right of a member state to question the development of a chapter of a candidate nation.
On December 8, the 27 EU foreign ministers released a statement regretting Ankara’s failure to open its ports to shipping from Greek Cyprus. A day after the meeting, Turkey said it was clear that any attempt to carry problems of bilateral relations to the EU platform through biased approaches would not bring any benefit to the solution of problems.
In another statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry criticized the EU declaration, which it said reflected the attitude of the Greek Cypriot administration amid ongoing negotiations to reunify the war-divided island of Cyprus.
Reconciliation talks between Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat and Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias were launched last year by the United Nations. However, momentum has slowed as a looming election due to be in held in Turkish Cyprus next April overshadows the meetings.
“We achieved to make sure vital statements on Turkey and Cyprus had a place in the closing declaration,” Droutsas said. “The lightening period during the past couple of years has ended. Issues were once again set on right bases. Turkey could not escape being evaluated. We managed to lift very dangerous statements on the closing declaration that would not prevent bilateral problems from being an obstacle in [Turkey’s] EU accession process.”
He added that his government had managed to secure the veto rights of Greek Cyprus and other member states to prevent new chapters from being opened and to make sure the international naval law that they regarded as very important had a place in the declaration.
“Greece’s international targets are not changing, but its means of arriving at those targets are changing. Turkey has a place in the European Union but not the Turkey of today. Not the Turkey that plays with the thought of an Ottoman past. The time of empires is gone. Now is the time of a European future. Greece presents this future in its region. We would also like to present this future to Turkey, but Turkey still has a lot to accomplish to reach European democracies.”
Droutsas added that if EU countries did not respond to Turkey’s attitude toward Greek Cyprus, the bloc’s honor would be harmed. “If the governments of 27 countries overlook Turkey’s non-recognition of Cyprus, the 2006 decision calling on Turkey to change this attitude, as well as the EU’s honor, would become worthless. Is this being hypocritical? Yes, it is. I do not have any reservations in saying this. But this is the field we are playing on. And this is the field we should get results on.”
“Greece can discuss any issue with Turkey on the condition that it does not interfere with its sovereignty,” said Droutsas. He added that Greece wished to add dynamism to the talks between the two countries. “The resolution of the issue about deciding the continental shelf between the two countries lies before us. There is no need for much philosophy. The international naval law was adopted by 160 countries. This is a treaty that Turkey needs to accept eventually. And, for the first time, this has had place in the council’s official document on Turkey after the summit in Brussels.”
Upon a question on determining a common attitude in the Aegean between the two countries, Droutsas said, “The best attitude would be for Turkey to stop violating international law.” Droutsas said Greece and Greek Cyprus supported U.N. efforts to find peace on the island.
Responding to a question, he said Athens did not view favorably the proposal by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a meeting between Turkey, Greece, Turkish Cyprus and Greek Cyprus before March 2010. The “only dependable procedure” on the Cyprus issue remains talks between the rival Cypriot leaders, Droutsas said. “We need to support the ongoing negotiations between Talat and Christofias,” he added