NEWS

Row over Turk-Cypriot role in EU-Islamic talks

ANKARA (AFP) – Greece and Cyprus have raised objections to the way breakaway Turkish Cypriots will take part in a meeting between officials from the European Union and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Istanbul next week, officials said here yesterday. «There are objections from the Greek Cypriots and Greece. Since they are EU members, this naturally concerns the European Union as well,» a diplomat told AFP on the condition of anonymity. «We are in contact with the related parties to iron out the issue,» he said. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul assured EU countries that Turkish Cypriots’ participation at the gathering would not amount to recognition of the Turkish-occupied section of northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey. «Taking part in this meeting does not mean recognition,» he told reporters. At the core of the diplomatic wrangling is a decision by the OIC in June to refer to the Turkish-occupied north as «the Cypriot-Turkish state.» The decision was a gesture to the Turkish Cypriots following the strong support they gave to a peace plan by UN chief Kofi Annan to end the 30-year division of Cyprus in an April referendum. The plan failed after the internationally recognized Greek Cypriots rejected it in a simultaneous vote on their side. The outcome ensured that the Greek Cypriots alone joined the EU on May 1. The settlement had envisaged Cyprus’s reunification into a loose federation between two separate states. The Turkish Cypriots have observer status at the OIC. But the Greek Cypriots are fiercely opposed to any international move that could imply recognition of the Turkish-controlled north of the island, where Turkey maintains thousands of troops. «The OIC aimed to express support for the Annan plan and accepted the TRNC (the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state) as it was (described) in the plan. So this is not EU business… OIC members have not recognized the TRNC either,» Gul said. Recalling the definitions used in the failed UN plan, the diplomat said, «Our preparations for the meeting in Istanbul continue accordingly.» The gathering will be the second of its kind since 2002. It aims to promote better ties and understanding between Europe and Muslim countries. Foreign ministers from at least five countries are expected to take part in the meeting, while other nations will be represented by lower level officials, according to diplomats here.