Cyprus FM: Ankara on collision course with EU

NICOSIA – Cyprus warned yesterday that Turkey’s refusal to open its ports and airports to the island would place it on a collision course with the EU in 2006. Diplomats fear Turkey’s EU entry talks may hit a crisis next year over Cyprus, represented in the bloc by a Greek-Cypriot government not recognized by Ankara. In comments sure to rile the Greek Cypriots, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener told Reuters over the weekend that Ankara would not make any unilateral moves to open its ports to Cypriot-flagged vessels. «If this is what the deputy prime minister has said, then they are on a collision course with the EU. It is only a matter of time,» Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou told Reuters. «The Republic of Cyprus is a member state of the EU. Its accord was required for Turkey to commence negotiations. We gave this after ensuring that Turkey would behave in a certain manner,» he said. The EU has repeatedly urged Turkey to lift its ban on Cypriot ships and aircraft. The Cypriot shipping fleet is the third largest in the EU after Greece and Malta. «There is a rendezvous where Turkey will have to give account of the progress it has made so far… If it continues to maintain this line, irrespective of its phoney arguments, it will put itself on a collision course with the EU,» Iacovou said. Turkey opened accession talks with the EU on October 3. Iacovou said there would be a review of Turkey’s progress in 2006. «We would want it to be in the first six months, during the Austrian presidency, but it will definitely be in 2006,» Iacovou said. Accommodating talks with Turkey while trying to juggle its non-recognition of a member state is likely to be a problem for the EU during accession negotiations, which are set to last about a decade.