Ankara’s future hopes are tied to Cyprus

ANKARA – Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union remain under a cloud because of diplomatic deadlock over the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus and EU defense issues, as well as human rights. Cyprus is itself seeking to join the EU, even though its northern third is occupied by Turkish troops, while any planned EU defense force could require NATO resources based in Turkey. The internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government of Cyprus, with strong support from EU member Greece, is well ahead of Turkey in negotiations to join the European Union, with accession widely expected in 2004. But if the deadlock that began in 1974 with Turkey’s invasion of the northern part of the island, populated now by mainly Turkish Cypriots, is not resolved, then Turkey would find itself in the uncomfortable situation of occupying part of an EU state. The issue is set to be posed anew at talks on the future of Cyprus, scheduled for December 4 in the capital Nicosia. The talks between Greek- Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and the Turkish-Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, come at a time of rising tension on the island. Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, the man who ordered the 1974 invasion of Cyprus during an earlier term as premier, has said he is not very optimistic about the new talks, the first between the Cypriot leaders in four years. Turkish leaders have begun to talk openly about annexing the region occupied by their troops, declared the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983 but recognized only by Ankara. Several EU leaders, including Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen and Parliamentary President Nicole Fontaine, have hinted that Cyprus could be admitted to the Union even if no solution is found. The new talks are being held on the initiative of Turkish-Cypriot leader Denktash, who in September refused to continue with indirect contacts under UN auspices. Turkish leaders, who have defined Cyprus as a national cause and say the Turkish-Cypriot population would be threatened by genocide if its interests were not defended in a reunified island, are seeking recognition for two entities in the framework of a binational federation. Turkish business leaders are somewhat less willing to sacrifice EU membership for the sake of Cyprus, however. On Monday the influential employers’ federation TUISAD said the wishes of 65 million Turks to join the EU cannot be compromised for the good of Cyprus. They’re not only charging straight into the brick wall, but they’re even blowing their horn as they do so, said one EU diplomat, referring to Turkey’s official intransigence.

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