Cyprus could thwart Turkey

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Turkey must cease its «hostile acts» toward Cyprus, or Nicosia may not support Ankara’s bid to begin membership talks with the European Union, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said yesterday. The EU Commission will recommend next Wednesday whether Ankara has met the political and economic criteria to start entry negotiations, in a crucial prelude to a decision by the EU’s 25 leaders in December on whether to open talks. The decision must be unanimous. Papadopoulos said he had an open mind on the Turkish bid. «We will consider the report of the Commission… we will be able to judge better how the Turkish attitude toward Cyprus will develop,» he told reporters after meeting with Belgian Premier Guy Verhofstadt. «We would like some of the hostile acts of Turkey toward Cyprus to be removed and we will make our decision when the time comes,» he added. «We favor Turkey getting a date of accession… provided Turkey meets all the requirements of the Copenhagen criteria [on human rights], and changes its attitude to (that of) an EU applicant state.» Turkey, the only country to recognize Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus as a legitimate state, does not recognize the Nicosia government and has excluded Cyprus from its customs union with the rest of the EU. EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler, a leading critic of Turkish membership within the Commission, said this had to change before entry talks could start. «It’s against international rules, the number of Turkish soldiers in northern Cyprus and the settlement policy of Turkey. Before negotiations start, this has to be changed,» he told reporters. «You can’t have one member state part-occupied by a possible member state.»

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