NEWS

Athens steps up action on recognition

The Greek government yesterday began exhibiting the first real signs that it intends to put its foot down over Turkey’s non-recognition of Cyprus as key talks on the subject between EU officials and representatives from all 25 member states loom next week. Athens has until now maintained a relatively low profile in opposing Ankara’s policy as it tries to walk the tightrope between wanting to ensure that Turkey has a future within the EU and making sure it will recognize the Nicosia government. However, Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos indicated that Greek diplomatic efforts will be going into overdrive over the next few days ahead of a meeting of the EU’s Council of Permanent Representatives in Brussels on August 31. «Our intention is to exhaust every possible opportunity to inform and discuss with our partners,» said Koumoutsakos. The meeting, which had been scheduled for this week, will focus solely on Turkey’s decision to expressly state that its signing of a customs protocol at the end of July did not mean that it recognized Cyprus. The protocol extended Ankara’s customs union to include the 10 newest EU members, including Cyprus. «The protocol must be implemented,» a Greek Foreign Ministry source told Kathimerini, indicating that Athens is gradually changing its tune and, possibly boosted by French opposition to Turkey’s stance, sees this as an ideal moment to force Ankara into a corner. The meeting will be followed on September 1 by a gathering of EU foreign ministers, at which they will discuss the opening of membership talks with Turkey, which are due to begin on October 3. Koumoutsakos revealed that Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis will be speaking with his British counterpart Jack Straw over the next few days – Britain currently holds the EU presidency – as well as a number of other top European diplomats. Meanwhile, Koumoutsakos said that Turkish Deputy Foreign Undersecretary Ertugrul Apakan will visit Athens on August 31 for talks with Greek diplomats and a brief discussion with Molyviatis. He also said Athens would not respond to a letter it received from Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. Koumotsakos did not reveal its content.