EU ties Turks to Cyprus

As Turkish Cypriots prepare to go to the polls in an election that could be decisive for the future of Cyprus, the EU’s leaders yesterday pressed Turkey to help solve the Cyprus problem in order to help ease its road toward the European Union. «We believe that at this time this point has great significance,» Prime Minister Costas Simitis told a news conference in Brussels. In their declaration, the EU heads of government underlined «the importance of Turkey’s expression of political will to settle the Cyprus problem. In this respect a settlement of the Cyprus problem… would greatly facilitate Turkey’s membership aspirations.» They urged «all parties concerned, and in particular Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriot leadership, to strongly support» UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s efforts to bring about an immediate resumption of talks to reunify the island. If no agreement is reached, only Greek Cypriots will enjoy the fruits of EU membership after May 1, when Cyprus will enter the Union. Joining the EU is the primary issue of the elections being contested by seven parties in the Turkish-occupied part of northern Cyprus, which only Ankara recognizes as a separate state. They are split between those which support Annan’s plan and those which back Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who has said the plan is dead. Some 140,000 people will go to the polls tomorrow. «There is a hope that the so-called elections may result in a political formations which could help achieve a solution, because there is hope that the problem may be solved before May 1, 2004,» Simitis said. «I hope that those who represent the Turkish-Cypriot community will see reason and will not stick to their extremist positions,» he added. Simitis and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, met briefly in Brussels but did not discuss anything. Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, also in Brussels, told a news conference that he was happy with the statement on Cyprus by the EU leaders. «This is what we had pursued and this is what is included in the conclusions regarding Cyprus,» he said. He added that Cyprus will not have any reason to veto the future accession of Turkey if the latter complies with the acquis communautaire and acts as a European country.