EU Parliament head presses Turks on Cyprus

As Ankara yesterday appeared to soften its stance on the rights of the Istanbul-based Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate, the European Parliament president urged the Turks to recognize Cyprus ahead of the December 17 EU decision on Turkey’s accession prospects. «The very process of opening negotiations between the 25 member states and Turkey implies recognition of Cyprus,» Josep Borrell warned in an address to the Turkish Parliament. «It is not possible to negotiate with someone you do not recognize.» Ankara has resolutely ruled out recognition of Cyprus – which it invaded in 1974, still occupying about a third of the island – ahead of the forthcoming summit, which is expected to set a date for the start of accession talks with Turkey. Greece and Nicosia insist on the need for prior recognition. Yesterday, Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, ending two days of diplomatic contacts in Rome, London, Berlin and Vienna, said he felt Greece’s positions had met with the understanding of its EU partners. He was speaking after a meeting with his Austrian counterpart Ursula Plassnik. Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that the matter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s status – Ankara rejects the «Ecumenical» title, claiming the Patriarchate only represents the Greeks of Istanbul – «is not taboo.» He told CNN-Turk TV that Ankara was «obliged to solve» problems regarding the religious freedom of the country’s non-Muslim populations.