EU ‘sure’ of deal on status of Cyprus

The European Union presidency yesterday expressed optimism that a deal could be struck over Turkey’s refusal to recognize Cyprus in the lead-up to next weekend’s EU summit, which will decide whether to give Ankara a date for the start of accession talks. Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of the year, said efforts were being made to find a solution to the problem. «I am absolutely sure the presidency… will find a formula that will satisfy everyone,» he said. Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan was to meet with his Dutch counterpart Jan Peter Balkenende late yesterday in Brussels. Also in Brussels yesterday, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos expressed a degree of satisfaction with the current draft of the December 17 decision on Turkey, as far as Ankara’s relations with Athens are concerned. Meanwhile, Turkey’s religious affairs minister was quoted by The Associated Press yesterday as saying Ankara would give the go-ahead for the reopening of the Halki Orthodox Seminary – which it closed in 1971 – provided the theological school came under nominal state control. «No one objects to an institution that is essential for training clerics,» Mehmet Aydin said. «It was there anyway.» Turkey’s treatment of the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate and the city’s dwindling Greek community could prove a stumbling block to its EU aspirations.