Cyprus deal is ‘empty of content’

Criticism of the so-called «framework agreement» for an eventual customs union between Turkey and the self-styled «Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus» mounted this weekend, with Greek, Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot politicians joining in. Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said yesterday the agreement was «empty of content» because the international community and international courts have recognized that northern Cyprus is a territory occupied by Turkey and not a state. Papadopoulos said the agreement, signed on Friday, did not change the Cypriot government’s position for a peaceful solution to the island’s division. On Saturday, Panayiotis Beglitis, spokesman for Greece’s Foreign Ministry, said that the agreement would harm Turkey’s aspiration to join the European Union. EU authorities said yesterday they will study the agreement before reacting. Cyprus is to join the EU in May 2004. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who has been trying unsuccessfully to put his breakaway state on an equal footing with the Cypriot State, called on the Cypriot government to sign a similar agreement as «a step toward sustainable and lasting peace.» But Mehmet Ali Talat, a Turkish-Cypriot politician opposed to Denktash, accused him on Saturday of knowingly undermining Turkey’s EU candidacy.