NEWS

Nicosia alerts EU to Turkey port block

Nicosia yesterday lodged an official complaint with the European Union after Ankara refused to allow a Greek-Cypriot ship to moor at the Turkish port of Mersin on Wednesday, prompting the EU to remind the candidate state of its commitments. The European Commission contacted Ankara as soon as it was briefed about the incident and reminded it of its obligation to allow the free movements of goods from all EU countries, a spokesperson for European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said yesterday. Turkey’s behavior «shows it is trying to avoid fulfilling commitments it has made to the EU,» according to Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou, who discussed the incident by telephone with his Greek counterpart Dora Bakoyannis and the Austrian presidency of the EU. The move also irked Greece’s President Karolos Papoulias, who said he had «sent a message to our friend and neighbor that Greece may grow tired of games at some point.» Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos sought to clear up confusion over an apparent delay in Bakoyannis’s reaction to the affair. He said that she had spoken to Iacovou about the incident as soon as the Greek Embassy in Nicosia had briefed the ministry in Athens but that this had not occurred until after her meetings with Iacovou and visiting Turkish Minister of State for European affairs Ali Babacan on Wednesday. In a related development, US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Washington was engaged in talks with the EU aimed at developing trade relations with the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus. «We are working on extending ties. (The USA) has trade relations with the northern part of Cyprus and this is entirely consistent with existing policy,» Ereli said. But he stressed that this «does not indicate any change on the level of political recognition.» Responding to Ereli’s comments, Koumoutsakos agreed that northern Cyprus should receive an economic boost «but in a manner that is in full accordance with the decisions of the UN Security Council and provisions relating to Cyprus.»