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Turkey urged not to be provoked by ‘unilateral’ Greek Cypriot move January 6, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Cyprus, Turkey.
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While Turkey expresses on every occasion its determination to press ahead with EU talks, it is also frustrated with Greek Cypriot attempts to hijack the accession negotiations. EU diplomats urge Ankara not to be provoked and concentrate on the opening of the environment chapter next Monday
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

The Greek Cypriot threat to veto six chapters in Turkey’s EU accession negotiations should not be treated as a provocation, diplomats say, urging Ankara to concentrate on the environmental policy area.

The environment chapter is expected to be opened at an intergovernmental conference next Monday.

A senior EU diplomat in Ankara said the Greek Cypriot demand did not figure on the agenda of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Dec. 8.

“There was no discussion of that demand. It is a unilateral statement Cyprus made when the EU foreign ministers discussed the enlargement package,” Swedish Ambassador to Turkey Christer Asp told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

Asked if that was an EU decision, Asp stressed: “No, not at all. It is a position by Cyprus, not by any other EU country.”

Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou said after the EU meeting last Tuesday that Greek Cyprus intends to set conditions for the opening of six future chapters in Turkey’s EU entry talks, drawing ire from Ankara.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Özügergin, in a counter-statement, slammed the Greek Cypriots’ intentions and said any attempt to carry problems in bilateral relations to an EU platform through “biased approaches” would not bring any benefit.

Britain tries hard to keep Turkish-EU talks alive

The Greek Cypriot attempt to hijack Turkey’s EU talks also drew criticism from Britain, a strong advocate of Turkish membership. Diplomatic sources said Britain was expected to make a declaration either Thursday, after the EU ambassadors meeting in Brussels, or next Monday in order to maintain the momentum in the Turkish-EU talks.

According to some press reports, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband walked out of the Dec. 8 summit of EU foreign ministers in protest of the Greek Cypriot threat. Diplomatic sources, however, told the Daily News that there was “no dramatic walkout” or similar event due to the Greek Cypriots, and explained that Miliband had to leave the meeting in question early because he had another appointment the same day.

The British declaration is expected to highlight the country’s long-term position encouraging the opening of more chapters in the Turkish-EU talks.

“We are reaching a very sensitive phase in various negotiations, be it Cyprus talks or Turkey’s accession negotiations,” said a diplomatic source who requested anonymity. “What’s important is to keep as calm as possible. Turkey should try not to see last week’s unilateral action by the Cypriots as a provocation to them. That would not be in anybody’s interest.”

The diplomatic source also welcomed a recent statement made by Turkey’s chief negotiator for EU talks, Egemen Bağış, as “very measured” and “sensible.”

While in Washington last week, Bağış referred to the EU declaration of regret over Ankara’s failure to open its ports to Greek Cyprus, saying, “Although the pressure of one EU member state made this decision include certain elements we are not content with, the statement reaffirms Turkey’s accession bid and prevents the negotiating process from coming across any obstacles.”

Eyes on opening environment chapter

Turkish diplomats say efforts are now underway for the expected opening of the environment chapter at the intergovernmental conference. On Saturday, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will convene a ministerial body, the Reform Watch Group, in Ankara to supervise the implementation of EU-inspired reforms.

“We are concentrating on opening the environment chapter, which will be very significant and a step forward in the accession negotiation. We hope to open it Monday,” said Ambassador Asp, whose country currently holds the EU term presidency.

Asp highlighted that the momentum in Turkish-EU talks was alive and said the opening of the environment chapter would be the most significant of all to date because it was one of the most comprehensive chapters in any accession negotiation.

“That will show that accession negotiations are on track,” the ambassador said, adding, “Of course, unilateral statements made by Cyprus are binding only Cyprus.”

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