NEWS

Still divided, Cyprus is invited to join EU

In an historic day, the European Union yesterday invited Cyprus, along with nine other countries, to become members of the union in early 2004. The invitation to Cyprus was issued despite the failure of last-minute efforts by the UN to broker a deal between Greek and Turkish Cypriots that would end the division which followed the Turkish invasion in 1974. «We haven’t gotten an agreement,» UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in New York, adding that he hoped the work done in the bid to reunite Cyprus would not be wasted. «Today we achieved the clear accession of Cyprus to the EU, without preconditions,» Prime Minister Costas Simitis said late last night. «We also maintained momentum in the effort to solve the Cyprus problem.» He urged Turkey to help solve the Cyprus problem. Turkey, which was not given the date it wanted in 2003 for the start of its own accession talks, was told that EU leaders would decide in late 2004 whether to start talks, if Ankara met the necessary criteria regarding human rights and democratic reforms. Although clearly upset by the delay, Turkish officials signaled that they would continue working to join the EU and would also help end the Cyprus problem by Feb. 28, a target date set by Annan. Greek and Cypriot officials in Copenhagen were jubilant, but about 2,000 Turkish-Cypriots demonstrated in northern Nicosia, calling on their leader, Rauf Denktash, not to block a solution to the Cyprus problem. If no deal is reached before Cyprus’s accession, the acquis communautaire will not apply in the Turkish-occupied north until the island is reunited. «It is with great satisfaction that I announce to the Cypriot people that the major national target of Cyprus’s accession to the European Union has today been achieved with the invitation to the Republic of Cyprus to become a member state of the European Union,» Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides said in Copenhagen. «We have waited for this historic day for a very long time…. Our joy at this historic event would have been complete if the Cyprus problem were already solved. We are deeply sorry that a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem has not been reached despite all these years of effort, efforts which reached a dramatic crescendo in the last few weeks. Our commitment to achieving this target as soon as possible remains as strong as ever.» Clerides called on Turkish Cypriots to seize the opportunity «and not lose their faith in our living together in a united and prosperous Cyprus in the EU.» Turkish leaders too said they would continue working to help resolve the Cyprus problem. «We will continue our good will,» said Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul. In another major development, the EU overcame months of Turkish opposition that had blocked its plans to develop a military force of 60,000 peacekeepers. This will allow the force to use NATO assets. «EU access to NATO planning capabilities… is now assured, effective immediately,» said NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson. «This is a vital milestone in the history of NATO-EU relations.» Turkey, a member of NATO but not of the EU, wants guarantees that the EU force will never be used against its interests. In a new concession to the Turks, the EU leaders agreed that Cyprus would not take part in any EU military operation that uses NATO assets. Denktash, who had missed the UN-mediated negotiations on the sidelines of the Copenhagen summit because he was in hospital in Ankara, said he was prepared to negotiate toward an agreement but claimed the EU had made threats in an effort to force a solution. In the face of mediation efforts by UN special envoy Alvaro de Soto, US special envoy Thomas Weston and British envoy Lord David Hannay, Denktash’s representative in Copenhagen did not agree to a deal. «No one can pressure us to sign this document with threats,» Denktash said. He likened EU efforts at the summit «to holding a gun to the head.»