NEWS

Cyprus may veto Turk EU entry

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus warned Turkey yesterday that it would veto its European Union accession talks if Ankara did not meet its EU obligations to open ports and airports to Cypriot traffic. Raising the stakes in a standoff that has soured Greek-Turkish relations and fanned tensions for decades, Cyprus made clear for the first time since Ankara started EU membership talks that it would not hesitate to block its path. «(If) Turkey continues not to implement the European acquis (EU rules and regulations)… its path toward the European Union will end,» said government spokesman Giorgos Lillikas, a close aide to Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos. Asked if Cyprus will use its veto, he told Reuters, «Certainly.» Peace efforts have been in limbo since Greek Cypriots rejected the latest UN peace plan in a 2004 referendum just days before joining the EU. The Turkish-Cypriot north, where Turkey keeps about 35,000 troops, voted for the blueprint. As part of extending a customs union agreement to all EU member states, Turkey must open its ports and airports to Cypriot traffic. Brussels expects Ankara to do it this year but Turkey has asked that it be coupled with lifting trade restrictions for Turkish Cypriots. Lillikas said Turkey only wanted to extract concessions for meeting its EU obligations. «This shows the attitude of Turkey and its political culture, which reaffirms how wise we were to reject the (UN Secretary-General Kofi) Annan plan,» said Lillikas. Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat shrugged off the threat of a veto. «Good luck (to any Greek-Cypriot veto plan),» Talat told Reuters, but he acknowledged that a «crisis is imminent.»