Turks must open ports to Cyprus, says Rehn

Turkey must fulfill all the criteria set by the European Union, including opening its ports to Cypriot ships, if progress in the country’s accession negotiations is to be achieved, the EU’s enlargement commissioner said yesterday. «We have kept our word and opened accession negotiations. Now we expect Turkey to keep its word by implementing the protocol,» Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters following a meeting with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in Athens. The Ankara Protocol, which Turkey has signed, extends the customs union between Turkey and the EU to the 10 new EU members, including Cyprus, that joined in May 2004. The protocol obliges Turkey to allow free trade with all existing EU members. Despite that, Turkey, the only country in the world that does not recognize Cyprus but instead backs a Turkish-Cypriot breakaway state, has refused to allow Greek-Cypriot ships and planes to dock and land. Besides the protocol, the EU has also defined a set of criteria Turkey must fulfill, such as safeguarding human rights and allowing its judiciary to be independent. Rehn, who previously visited Turkey, repeated his demands to Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul who replied that the Cyprus issue is not part of the package of EU-Turkey relations. «I had the opportunity to remind Mr Rehn of Greece’s constructive position regarding (Turkey’s) European aspirations. I underlined the fact that progress toward this goal depends primarily on Turkey,» Bakoyannis said.