Athens insists on Cyprus recognition

As European Union member states appear to be in two minds over Turkey’s prospects for joining the 25-nation bloc, Athens still backs its eastern neighbor’s EU entry while insisting Ankara complies with crucial requirements, notably recognizing Cyprus, the government said yesterday. Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos told a press briefing yesterday that Greece’s EU partners still must formulate a clear position ahead of the December 17 summit, which is to decide on whether to give Ankara a date for the commencement of accession talks. «There is a certain ambiguity regarding the time factor, that is whether [negotiations will start] in the first or the second half of 2005,» he said. Koumoutsakos added that there is further ambiguity as to whether «the negotiations, if they actually go ahead, will definitely lead to Turkey’s full accession or to something else.» «In this general mood, Greece – which supports Turkey’s EU prospects – feels certain matters that form the main core of the European Union’s logic, EU regulations and principles, cannot be disregarded,» Koumoutsakos said. «This, of course, includes the major matter of Turkey’s recognizing the Republic of Cyprus.» Ankara has repeatedly refused to recognize Cyprus in the runup to the December 17 summit. Turkey has occupied the northern third of the island since the 1974 military invasion. Yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis discussed the matter with his Dutch counterpart, Jan Peter Balkenende. The Netherlands currently holds the rotating EU presidency. Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said Karamanlis also insisted on the need for Ankara to «fulfill all the required criteria and preconditions» for its accession talks to go ahead. Meanwhile, an Athens News Agency report yesterday quoted Turkish media as saying the country’s powerful National Security Council, in a draft of its new security dogma, insists that any move to reopen the Greek Orthodox seminary of Halki would constitute an internal threat to Turkey. Athens has long lobbied for the religious training center, closed in 1971, to re-open.