Turks pressed to recognize Cyprus

As European Union leaders conferred through the night in Brussels yesterday on Turkey’s accession talks, Ankara showed no sign of softening in its refusal to recognize EU member Cyprus, even through some indirect formula. Until late yesterday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was ruling out any such move, despite further last-minute pressure from Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. During a meeting with Erdogan just before the two-day summit opened, the Greek PM is understood to have indicated that Athens would back Ankara to the hilt on its EU aspirations – provided Turkey made the gesture of signing a customs deal with the 10 new EU members, Cyprus included. Speaking to journalists, Karamanlis said that Turkey should be placed under strict scrutiny during accession talks. «If Turkey manages to make it to the end, then we should be just,» he said. Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, setting up a puppet regime in the territories it has occupied since, and refuses to recognize the remaining part of the island as a sovereign state. It is unclear how Athens and Nicosia will handle a final refusal on Cyprus’s recognition. Both have the right to block the start of Turkey’s accession talks, but Athens at least appears extremely unwilling to do so. Erdogan insisted yesterday that acceptance of Cyprus’s status would presuppose a peace settlement on the island – which is seen as highly unlikely in the near future. Earlier in the day, EU Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso urged Ankara to recognize Cyprus «sooner rather than later.»