Athens, Nicosia fume

Athens and Nicosia expressed their frustration with Ankara over the weekend, describing as a «paradox» and «regrettable» Turkey’s decision to sign a protocol late Friday extending its customs union to include Cyprus but also issuing a statement saying that it did not recognize the EU member state. After months of back-and-forth negotiations, Ankara rushed to sign the protocol on Friday evening in Brussels. The document extends Turkey’s customs union to the 10 newest EU member states, including Cyprus. Athens and Nicosia had insisted that when Ankara signed the protocol, it would mean the de facto recognition of Cyprus, but Turkey made it very clear in a statement on Friday that this would not be the case. Ankara said that it remained committed to talks to establish a «bizonal partnership state» but felt that Nicosia did not represent Turkish Cypriots. The statement stopped short of saying that Cypriot ships and airplanes could not use Turkish ports and airports – something that would have harmed Ankara’s EU prospects. The president of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, said yesterday that Turkey’s statement had «no legal power.» Papadopoulos added that he was content with the way his government reacted; in response to news of Turkey’s statement, government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said that Nicosia «regretted» Turkey’s position. Papadopoulos indicated that his efforts would now focus on the discussion that is set to take place at the end of the month in the Council of Permanent Representatives of the EU, which will debate the opening of membership talks with Turkey. In a statement released on Saturday, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said that Athens would set out its position then as well. Koumoutsakos was also scathing about Ankara’s policy. «In a unilateral declaration – which it unfortunately feels the need to make – Turkey appears to insist on prolonging this dead-end political and legal paradox,» he said. «This paradox has to end – the sooner, the better.»

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