NEWS

Turkey package goes to EU summit

The EU’s summit in Copenhagen next month is expected to tackle the issues of Cyprus’s accession, the establishment of the EU’s rapid reaction force and a date for Turkey’s EU accession talks, after negotiations this past week failed to persuade Turkey to agree on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan being a basis for negotiations for a Cyprus settlement. This was the conclusion after a series of meetings between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and US President George W. Bush and other leaders in Prague this week, Simitis’s telephone conversation with Annan yesterday and the contacts between Foreign Minister George Papandreou and several of his colleagues. The United States, which is pressing for Turkey to be given a date for accession talks is said to be bringing pressure to bear on Ankara to work on solving the other problems. Simitis said in Prague yesterday that in his discussion with Bush, the US president promised to press Ankara to accept Annan’s plan and to agree to an EU-NATO deal allowing the Euroforce to be formed. Simitis also suggested that there was growing agreement among EU countries to give Turkey its date for the start of accession talks. «Although there was a climate of total rejection of this, this is no longer the case,» Simitis said. «There is the sense that something has to be done. What will be done remains to be seen. Because dates (for the start of accession talks) may range from February 2003 to February 2010.» It was not clear whether the date would be for the start of talks or in order to set a later date for talks. The continuous bargaining between Europeans, Americans, Greeks and Turks has created the impression that everyone is looking for a solution to the whole package of problems in Copenhagen on December 12. In Turkey, the leader of the ruling party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the opposition party leader, Deniz Baykal, held a joint news conference to demand a date for talks with the EU at the Copenhagen summit. «We demand a date for the start of accession talks, it is Turkey’s right to get it,» Erdogan said. «If the decision in Copenhagen is negative, they will bear the consequences,» he said. Baykal added that the EU’s «credibility, integrity and dignity» were at stake. Simitis repeated Greece’s support for Turkey’s closer ties with the EU. «We believe that the Copenhagen summit must provide a positive message for Turkey’s European future. Because we believe this will have a positive effect on Turkey,» he said. «But positive signals must come from Turkey too, on outstanding issues such as Cyprus, the Euroforce and, generally, with regard to European principles.» Simitis stressed that Cyprus should be invited to join the EU even if its political problem was not solved, and he said that Greece would not accept any conditions on its entry. «We want a clear solution,» he said. Commenting on whether some EU countries might object to a divided Cyprus’s accession, Simitis said, «I cannot give guarantees for anything.» But he stressed the need for a solution for Cyprus. «This issue has to close. If it does not close on December 11 or 12 it must close soon after. It is in our interests to have a solution,» he said. Annan and his envoy for Cyprus, Alvaro de Soto, discussed Cyprus at The Hague. Simitis, who was also visiting the city, called Annan and noted that Greece and the Greek Cypriots had accepted Annan’s plan by last Monday’s deadline while Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots had not. Annan is pressing the Turkish sides to do so.