Turkey divides opinion

As the dust settled from Monday’s furious negotiations that set Turkey on the path that could ultimately lead to EU membership, Athens yesterday called the deal a «success for Greek foreign policy» while Nicosia raged against Ankara’s bargaining tactics. Europe is adjusting to what Turkey’s eventual accession might mean for the EU but Athens and Nicosia displayed contrasting emotions as they assessed the impact of Ankara’s progress. In Greece, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the negotiating framework to which Turkey must adhere over the next few years protected all the positions Athens wanted. «For the first time, the European Union is asking as an obligation and prerequisite from Turkey to improve bilateral relations with Greece with respect to good-neighborly relations,» Roussopoulos said. He added that Turkey would be under pressure to participate in a solution to the Cyprus problem but also to tackle the issues of the treatment of the Greek minority and the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. But in Cyprus, Foreign Minister George Iacovou appeared much more pessimistic and suggested that Turkey’s behavior during the last-ditch negotiations did not bode well for the future. Ankara raised objections to the framework text late on Monday because it would prevent Turkey from stopping Nicosia’s efforts to join international organizations. Ankara expressed concern that Cyprus might try to join NATO, of which Turkey is already a member. Nicosia has not shown any strong desire to join NATO, and Iacovou said the issue was just a publicity stunt by Ankara. «The debate was a total red herring, a public relations trick for Turkish public opinion,» he said. Iacovou said he told British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw as much and said he would leave «this Anatolian bazaar» and go home unless the Turks accepted the deal on the table. Meanwhile, European Parliament President Josep Borell called on Turkey and Cyprus to use the momentum created by the opening of EU membership talks with Ankara to find a solution to the division of the island.