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Cyprus thorny obstacle on EU path

Source: Cyprus Observer  
12 November 2006

European Commission Report gives due time to Turkey to open ports

The European Commission’s Progress Report on Turkey once again urged Turkey to fulfil obligations towards the EU and fully implement the Ankara Agreement by removing all restrictions on the free movement of goods, including restrictions on means of transport regarding the South. The European Commission’s Enlargement Strategy Paper titled ‘Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2006–2007’ gave Turkey due-time to implement the Ankara Agreement until the date of the European Council in December 2006, pointing out, “failure to implement its obligations in full will affect the overall progress in the negotiations.” “The Commission will make relevant recommendations to the European Council ahead of the December European Council, if Turkey has not fulfilled its obligations,” said the controversial Paper.

Content of Report

As was reported by the Cyprus Observer last week from the Draft of the Report, the EU reminded the Turkish government that implementing the Additional Protocol is a legal obligation as such, which must not be linked to the situation of the Turkish Cypriot community, openly rejecting the approach of Turkey’s ‘Action Plan on Cyprus’.

The Cyprus subtitle under ‘Regional issues and international obligations’ urges Turkey to open ports to South Cyprus-flagged and/or managed vessels, and of vessels whose last port of call was Cyprus. It also urges the lifting of restrictions applied to Greek Cypriot aircraft which aim to use Turkish national airspace, and on the restrictions on communications between Turkish and Cypriot civil aviation authorities and air navigation service providers. Similar demands were also repeated under the Customs Union and Transport policy titles.

Turkey was urged to “contribute to a better climate for a comprehensive settlement; implement fully the Protocol adapting the Ankara Agreement to the accession of the 10 new EU Member States including Cyprus; and take concrete steps for the normalisation of bilateral relations with all Member States, including the Republic of Cyprus, as soon as possible.”

The Report pointed out that Turkey expressed support for the setting up of Technical Committees between the two Cypriot communities, as agreed during talks hosted by the UN in July. It also suggested that the Technical Committees initiative was “initiated after the February meeting in Paris between UN Secretary-General Mr Annan and President Papadopoulos,” which was seen by the Turkish Cypriot side as a factual mistake.

As with last week’s draft report, the text also emphasised progress has not been made on any aspects of normalising bilateral relations with the Republic of Cyprus.

Reactions to the Report

Following the publication of the Report the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that the EU has decided to give diplomacy a chance, adding “if they don’t fulfil all of their responsibilities, it will affect the entire talk process.” European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn also stated that the EU’s Finnish term presidency has made substantial diplomatic efforts to ensure that Turkey meets its obligations, stressing, “The Commission fully supports these efforts to unblock the current stalemate.”

Turkish Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat stated that they expected the EU and the entire world to abolish the isolations on the Turkish Cypriots, however to lift the isolations they demanded that Turkey should do something in return which was ‘extremely inappropriate’. He said, “Therefore we strictly object to the articles on Cyprus within the EU Progress Report and Strategy Paper putting pressure on the Turkish Government, it is impossible for us to accept these opinions, we condemn such attitude.”

His Greek Cypriot counterpart, Yorgos Lillikas commented that the Report revealed clearly that Turkey had not fulfilled its responsibilities to open up its ports to Cypriot trade, pointing out “We are decisive on the matter of Turkey carrying out these actions. [South] Cyprus will not come to any agreements as long as Turkey keeps on hearing compliments rather than tough talk.”

French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Philippe Douste-Blazy also was sharp on Turkey emphasising that it will be necessary to rethink EU accession talks with Turkey, if Ankara does not officially recognise the South by the end of the year.

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