Greek, Cyprus leaders to set Turkey stance

Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos is due in Athens next Thursday for urgent talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis aimed at establishing a common stance on Turkey’s accession to the European Union before the EU starts debating the issue later this month, Karamanlis’s office said yesterday. Meanwhile, Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iakovou confirmed the existence of a French government document – leaked yesterday by Cypriot television channel Sigma – which stresses the need for Turkey to recognize Cyprus before it can embark on accession talks with the EU. The document is believed to have been sent to the governments of all member states. Ankara’s declaration that it does not recognize Cyprus – which was attached to a signed protocol extending its customs agreement with the EU – «raises doubts about Turkey’s ability to fulfill all the obligations emanating from the protocol and begs the question whether the condition, set by the European Council in 2004, has actually been met,» according to an extract from the document. Turkey’s Finance Minister Ali Babacan, who is due to lead Turkey’s accession talks starting October 3, yesterday countered that France’s stance «had been dictated by internal politics» and insisted that talks would go ahead as scheduled. «Turkey has done all it can for a comprehensive Cyprus solution, it is not fair that is still coming under pressure,» Babacan added. Also yesterday, Iakovou dismissed allegations by Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat that Nicosia is using mudslinging tactics against him. Iakovou said it was unsurprising that Talat should try to play down the significance of comments made during an interview with Turkish online newsletter New Anatolian earlier this week. Talat had been accused of secessionist tactics after telling the newspaper that he was focusing his efforts on opening ports and the illegal airport of Tymbos in the Turkish-held north of Cyprus. The issue of Turkey’s accession talks is to be discussed on August 24 by the EU’s committee of permanent representatives and in the first week of September by the European Council of Foreign Ministers.