Anger in Athens, Nicosia on protocol

Athens and Nicosia yesterday presented a united front in the face of Ankara’s foot-dragging in signing a protocol extending its customs union to include the 10 newest European Union member states, as well as Turkey’s insistence that signing this document did not mean it would recognize Cyprus. Following talks in London with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara would sign the customs protocol soon, without giving a date. «There will be no change on the recognition question until there is a settlement,» Erdogan said. Blair said Turkey would sign the customs protocol «as soon as possible.» «It is simply important for us to restate the legal fact, which is the signing of the protocol does not involve the recognition of Cyprus,» Blair said. Reacting to Blair’s comments later yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos stressed that what was expected of Turkey was «the unequivocal signing (of the protocol) with all that entails.» «It is clear that the failure of a candidate country to recognize a member state is an institutional and political incongruity which must be resolved as soon as possible,» he added. Meanwhile in Nicosia, Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomidis criticized Turkey’s «rhetoric of non-recognition of Cyprus» as «incomprehensible.» But he added that Blair and Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos earlier this week agreed to launch a «structured dialogue» aimed at reunifying the island.

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