Athens eyes a solution

Athens appeared content yesterday with the outcome of an EU foreign ministers meeting even though diplomats were not able to agree on the wording of a statement castigating Turkey’s refusal to recognize Cyprus as attention now shifts to the next round of talks in a few days. The meeting in Newport, Wales, chaired by Britain, which currently holds the EU presidency, failed to provide the basis for a common statement after several EU members, led by Greece and Cyprus, felt that the text was not forceful enough in its condemnation of Turkey and did not lay down clear guidelines. The content of the draft statement was not released but its main thrust was to call on Ankara to normalize its relations with all 25 member states, including Cyprus. After no agreement was reached, it was decided that the matter should be taken up again at the Council of Permanent Representatives in Brussels (COREPER) on Wednesday. «Yesterday’s statement needs certain changes so it reflects more faithfully the general spirit and common denominator of positions presented by Greece, Cyprus and other colleagues,» said Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis. «The presidency’s new text is a serious effort to blend views. For this reason it is a good basis for further discussion.» If EU officials can agree on a common statement next week, it will effectively be a retort to Turkey’s statement saying that it did not recognize Cyprus even though it signed an extension to its EU customs protocol at the end of July. This statement will then be put to the Council of Ministers on September 15. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul warned that Ankara might walk away from the negotiating table if more demands are made by the EU. Turkey is due to begin its membership talks with the EU on October 3 and the general consensus after yesterday’s meeting seemed to be that despite Ankara’s grandstanding, the deadline would still be met, albeit after some more hard negotiations. «It was clear that there is a realization that EU-Turkey negotiations should begin once it is certain that Turkey has fulfilled the obligations it signed up to,» Molyviatis said.