Ankara links Cyprus status with peace deal

Ankara yesterday flatly ruled out any move to recognize Cyprus before the two-day European Union summit starting tomorrow, which is expected to grant Turkey a date for the beginning of its EU accession talks. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara had fulfilled all requirements for the initiation of accession talks and would not take any further steps on Cyprus. His foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, told the Turkish Parliament that there would be no recognition, direct or indirect, before a final peace settlement is achieved on the island. He added that such a deal could only be brokered by the United Nations – whose peace blueprint was rejected by the Greek Cypriots in an April 24 referendum – and not the EU. Cyprus has effectively ruled out a veto on Turkey’s accession talks. In Athens, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who leaves for Brussels today, yesterday confirmed that Greece would back Turkey’s accession talks now, focusing instead on long-term negotiations to achieve its targets. «Greece supports Turkey’s European prospects,» he said in statements to the Turkish Anatolia news agency. «This is a strategic choice seen as a means, among other things, to secure a high degree of geopolitical stability in our region. «Nevertheless, Turkey’s long course toward European integration depends in total on itself. Respect for international law and the acquis communautaire are indispensable for Turkey to win accession to the European Union.» Karamanlis’s remarks were quoted by the Athens News Agency. Meanwhile, a VPRC poll carried out on behalf of SKAI radio that was made public yesterday showed that Greeks are highly ambivalent as to whether Turkey’s EU accession would be a good thing for Greece – with people backing the positive outlook only outstripping the opposite view by 5 percent. Furthermore, 59 percent expressed the view that Athens must back Nicosia in the event of the Cypriots vetoing the opening of negotiations on Turkey’s accession. On the other hand, 76 percent of respondents backed the continuation of cross-Aegean rapprochement through talks, while 77 percent voiced the opinion that there is no danger of war breaking out between Greece and Turkey.