Cyprus is Turks’ EU accession key

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Turkey must push harder to help reunite the divided island of Cyprus if it is to have a serious chance of starting talks on joining the European Union, an EU Commission official said yesterday. «If the problem is not resolved by the end of 2004, it will be a serious obstacle to opening accession negotiations,» the official told Reuters, on condition of anonymity. «There are plenty of people who won’t like that, but that’s the way it is.» Cyprus is due to join the EU on May 1, 2004. [A United Nations reunification blueprint has been rejected by Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who enjoys support from Ankara.] In a report on Turkey’s progress toward EU accession negotiations, due for publication on November 5 and obtained by Reuters, the bloc’s executive Commission said Turkish cooperation had been reasonably good so far. «The Turkish government has on several occasions confirmed its support for efforts to find a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem,» it said. «Relations between Turkey and Greece continue to evolve positively.»