EU official warns Turks on Cyprus

A day after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited northern Cyprus to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Turkish Cypriots unilateral declaration of independence, the European official in charge of relations with prospective EU members was quoted as warning Ankara in the most direct way yet that it would not get closer to the union as long as its troops occupied Cyprus. «It is inconceivable that accession talks with the EU will begin while there are 30,000 Turkish troops on Cyprus,» Commissioner Guenter Verheugen told a seminar on EU enlargement in Berlin, according to an Athens News Agency report from Nicosia yesterday. It was not clear when Verheugen spoke. The Cyprus issue, he was quoted as saying, «may not be a criterion for Turkey’s accession to the EU, but one cannot seriously believe that accession talks can begin with a country that has part of another EU member under occupation.» On Nov. 5, the European Commission issued a report on EU candidates and potential candidates and warned Turkey it would face «serious obstacles» on its road toward the EU if it did not help solve the Cyprus issue. Erdogan, whose party won elections a year ago, has shifted from his initial pressure on Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to accept UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s plan. Visiting northern Cyprus for a military parade on Saturday, Erdogan supported Denktash’s longstanding position that any solution must come with international recognition of the Turk-Cypriot state. This demand has blocked decades of negotiations. Annan, who has blamed Denktash before, on Friday repeated that he will not resume his mediation efforts unless the protagonists show a willingness to reach a solution. In a report to the Security Council, Annan called for another six-month extension for peacekeeping forces, who have been on Cyprus for four decades. «It remains my position that no purpose would be served by renewing my mission of good offices unless there were a readiness on the part of both Cypriot parties, as well as Greece and Turkey, to finalize negotiations,» he said.