New era is ushered in

Greece hailed a «new era» for its relations with Turkey as the neighboring state that had for many years been an enemy took a giant leap yesterday toward becoming a member of the EU and closer to healing the divide that haunts relations between the two states. The airplane carrying Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul touched down in Luxembourg early yesterday morning, signaling the end of fraught negotiations and the beginning of the welcoming process for Turkey. Talks between the 25 foreign ministers had been on the brink of collapse but they eventually agreed on the negotiating framework that ushered Ankara into the EU entrance hall. Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis said it was an historic moment that would help improve relations between the two countries. «It is really a very important agreement. An agreement that will not immediately, tomorrow, but in the future replace the bad past and the bad name of our region,» Molyviatis said. «It is the start of a new era.» One of the key issues Athens is hoping will be aided by Turkey’s membership talks with the EU is the division of Cyprus. However, Ankara moved quickly to quash any ideas that since it was now a prospective EU member, it would change its hardline stance on the issue. «There will be no change from our position today until there is a lasting settlement on Cyprus,» Gul said in Luxembourg. He also insisted that Turkey would only accept efforts to reunify the island that came from the United Nations and not the EU. Nicosia was keen to emphasize that Ankara had been assigned a framework to which it must adhere. «Turkey must realize that it has to adjust to the terms set by the European Union,» said Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides. «Cyprus has lost nothing during developments in Luxembourg,» he added in reaction to domestic criticism that Nicosia’s interests had not been served by the agreement, which Chrysostomides said would not be conducted on Turkey’s terms. Meanwhile, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said Turkey had a tough road ahead of it, which could last up to 15 years. He said Ankara would have to recognize Cyprus as soon as possible.