Paris backs Nicosia

Greece jumped at the chance yesterday to echo criticism by the French prime minister regarding Turkey’s persistent refusal to recognize Cyprus as a condition for its accession to the European Union. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s office announced that a scheduled landmark visit to Ankara by the Greek premier later this month had been indefinitely postponed. The trip will now probably take place after Oct. 3, when Turkey’s EU accession talks are due to begin, the prime minister’s office said. French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin’s comments, which were aired on Europe 1 radio, «bear exceptional weight,» Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos said. «It seems to me inconceivable that such a negotiation process can begin with a country which does not recognize every one of the members of the European Union,» Villepin said during the broadcast. Koumoutsakos grasped the opportunity to emphasize Greece’s position, stressing that Turkey’s behavior «constitutes a clear political and constitutional contradiction, a paradox that is foreign to Europe.» However, he added that Greece would continue to support Turkey’s EU aspirations «as long as it develops according to the principles, rules and values of the EU.» Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis later told state television, «The protraction (Turkey’s non-recognition of Cyprus)… will cast a shadow over Turkey’s accession talks and should therefore be eliminated.» Athens will inform the EU’s committee of permanent representatives of its stance regarding the launch of Turkey’s EU accession talks «when the time is right,» Valinakis added. Turkish officials reacted to Villepin’s criticism by insisting that Ankara had fulfilled all requirements to begin talks and accusing the EU of reneging on commitments made to Ankara last year. «We now expect the EU to launch accession negotiations in line with the pledge it made on December 17,» Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told reporters in Riyadh where he was attending the funeral of Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd.