NEWS

Ankara presses for package deal

Turkey’s effort to tie progress on Cyprus and the EU’s rapid reaction force to Ankara’s effort to be given a date for the start of EU accession talks, appears to rule out the possibility of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan for Cyprus being accepted by Turkish Cypriots before the EU summit next month. Greece’s effort has now shifted to ensuring that Cyprus will be able to join the EU without hindrance. The EU summit in Copenhagen on December 12 is expected to invite Cyprus and nine other candidates to join the Union. Annan’s plan was aimed at promoting agreement between Greek and Turkish Cypriots so that a united Cyprus could be invited. Greek Cypriots met Annan’s deadline last Monday and accepted his plan as the basis for negotiations on a comprehensive solution. Turkey, which has been campaigning vigorously to get a date for the start of its own accession talks, now says that it must first be granted the date before it considers helping solve the Cyprus problem and agreeing to a deal which would allow the EU force to use NATO assets. At a news conference on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Prague yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said in a statement aimed at Turkish President Ahmet Sezer, that he «cannot have everything.» Greece had suggested in the past that Ankara’s help in solving the Cyprus issue and the ESDP could help its effort to get a date for talks. Simitis said he was meeting with several heads of state and government. On Wednesday, he said, he had spoken «for a long time with (US) President Bush and President Sezer.» «Today I spoke with President Sezer again,» Simitis said. «He repeated that it was too soon for them to form an opinion on the Annan plan. He said: ‘It is 150 pages, when will we have the time to read them? We need time.’ He told me also that (Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf) Denktash is ill and must get well. He repeated that with regard to the Euroforce there are some issues that are not very serious and can be solved. This is the formula we heard from (Turkey’s ruling party leader Recep Tayyip) Erdogan in Athens. Mr Sezer repeated that the EU must give Turkey a date, because it must help change, and so on. I explained that he cannot have everything.» Washington has been pressing EU countries to give Turkey a date. Simitis said he would be meeting with Bush again later yesterday or today. «It is natural when Turkey says, ‘I want to start negotiations.’ The Europeans say, ‘Close this issue’ (of the Euroforce) and the Cyprus issue,» he said. «We do not tie these issues together and no one else did.» Speaking in Strasbourg, Erdogan told reporters: «Turkey has overcome considerable difficulties on the issue of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). The EU, the Cyprus question and the ESDP can be taken up as a package.» He said a Cyprus deal could by reached before the EU’s Thessaloniki summit in June 2003. Simitis’s comments in Prague suggested that, although most EU members agreed with the decision taken in 1999 that Cyprus’s accession would not be held up by the lack of a political solution, Athens fears that some might object to Cyprus’s being invited before its problem is solved. «I can add that what they feel – and this is completely understandable – is the need to move toward solving the Cyprus problem, without playing for time, without negotiations that will go on forever,» he said. «It must close, one way or another.» A poll published by the right-wing Eleftheros Typos daily in Athens found that 53.8 percent of Greeks and 71 percent of Greek Cypriots were opposed to Annan’s plan.