Nicosia berates EU failure

After a third attempt by the EU’s 25 member states to agree on a statement criticizing Turkey’s refusal to recognize Cyprus broke down, Nicosia focused its frustration on the British presidency yesterday, claiming it was favoring Ankara too heavily. «There is no draft counter-declaration on the table but there is a hardening of the British position,» said Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides, adding that he felt London’s stance was influenced by persistent complaints from Ankara. «This is exactly the mistake of the presidency, it is behaving toward Turkey as if it is already a member of the European Union,» he said. The barrage from Cyprus comes after a marathon meeting of the Council of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) in Brussels on Wednesday when EU diplomats failed to agree upon the content of a declaration rebutting Turkey’s statement in July which reiterated its non-recognition of Cyprus. The text put forward by the British presidency was the least acceptable to Athens and Nicosia of the three versions drafted so far, sources said. There is concern over the text when it comes to the possibility of Ankara not living up to its commitments to the customs union that it extended in July. If Ankara fails to open up its harbors and airports to Cypriot planes and ships, Nicosia would like to see Turkey’s negotiation process halted or at least paused. However, Britain is pushing hard for a softer approach, fearing that Ankara could pull out of talks altogether. «By welcoming Turkey, we will demonstrate that Western and Islamic cultures can thrive together as partners in the modern world,» said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in a speech yesterday. «The alternative is too terrible to contemplate,» he said. Another COREPER meeting is due next week but Britain may push for one sooner. Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou said that it would probably take an emergency meeting of his EU counterparts on September 26 to break the deadlock, ahead of the proposed October 3 starting date for Turkey’s accession talks.