NEWS

Turkey rejects Cyprus accession

The issue of Cyprus’s guarantor states came to the fore yesterday, as Turkey declared it did not recognize the EU’s invitation to Cyprus to join the union and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said ideally Cyprus, as an EU member, should not need guarantor powers to ensure its people’s security. Under the agreement which established Cyprus as an independent republic in 1960, Greece, Turkey and Britain were declared «guarantor powers,» giving them a direct say in the island’s affairs. Turkey invoked this when it invaded the island and occupied its northern part in 1974 after a short-lived coup by Greek Cypriots who wanted union with Greece. UN efforts to undo this invasion are continuing. Yesterday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said it did not recognize Cyprus’s accession. «Turkey does not accept the EU Copenhagen Summit decision on Cyprus either legally or politically,» the ministry said in a statement. «The EU does not have the right to take unilateral decisions about the future of Cyprus by violating international agreements,» it said, according to an Anatolia news agency report. In Athens, Simitis said he saw EU accession as making Cyprus’s guarantor powers unnecessary. «I would prefer it, if it were possible, that neither Greece nor Turkey should act as guarantors of Cyprus’s security. I believe that Cyprus itself, with its EU accession, will guarantee the security of all its inhabitants and that these (guarantor) agreements are not necessary,» he said, speaking at a Foreign Press Association luncheon. «But if this has to continue, because the interested parties and the UN believes in it, then, of course, we will agree to such a guarantee.» As for UN efforts to reunite Cyprus on the basis of a proposal by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Simitis said the UN’s Feb. 28 deadline should not be seen as a cutoff point. «We would like the negotiations for a Cyprus solution to be concluded by Feb. 28. For us, Feb. 28 should not be a date to be postponed every time, without the issue ever closing,» he said. «But I believe that if significant progress has been made by then, the negotiations should continue,» Simitis said. «If on Feb. 28, the other side refuses to negotiate, then there is no reason for the negotiations.» In Ankara, President Ahmet Sezer, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul and the chief of the military, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, held a meeting on Iraq and Cyprus. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash joined them for the discussion on Cyprus. The president’s spokesman said afterward that Turkey stood by Denktash, who has tried to avoid a deal with the Greek Cypriots and who claims that the EU is trying to build a «Christian fortress» around Turkey by taking in Cyprus as a member. In Nicosia, Cypriot government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said presidential elections will be held on Feb. 16, with a runoff on Feb. 23 if necessary, as President Glafcos Clerides’s second term ends on Feb. 28. The Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman, Panayiotis Beglitis, clarified a statement by EU enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, in which he had apparently said that if Cypriots, in a referendum, rejected a deal, the island’s accession would be aborted. «The referendum foreseen in the Annan plan… is a referendum on a solution for Cyprus and not on Cyprus’s EU accession,» Beglitis said. Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Cassoulides told Turkey’s Sabah newspaper: «We apologize to Turkish Cypriots for the mistakes we made in the 1950s and 1960s. Due to these mistakes, which were made one after another, people were forced to abandon their lands and homes… Everything will easily be solved if the other side conducts similar self-criticism.»