NEWS

EU squeezes Ankara

The European Union yesterday gave its strongest warning yet to Turkey that its membership talks would not progress unless Ankara opens its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and planes and maintains good relations with Greece. In a joint statement, the leaders of the 25 EU member states who had held a two-day meeting in Brussels called on Turkey to display «commitment to good-neighborly relations.» They added that «any action which could negatively affect the process of peaceful settlement of disputes should be avoided.» Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis appeared satisfied with the statement and insisted that Turkey had to live up to the commitments it had made if it wants to become a member of the EU in the future. «There is a European course and on the other side there is a need to fulfill commitments,» Karamanlis told journalists. «There are no ambiguities and no ways around it,» he added. Significantly, the EU leaders also emphasized the need for Turkey to implement the Ankara protocol, which it signed last August, pledging to open its ports and airports to the 10 newest EU members, including Cyprus. Turkey has so far not indicated any willingness to carry through with its commitment, arguing that the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots should end first. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated yesterday that Ankara had no intention of fulfilling its pledge unless the restrictions were lifted, even if that meant that EU talks would be frozen. «It would be a problem if this statement of Erdogan is true,» said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. «We have a clear understanding, all member states of the European Union, that the Ankara protocol has to be applied, it’s clear,» said Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, whose country holds the EU presidency. «We hope by the end of the year Turkey will do that.» However, Karamanlis refused to say whether he believes Ankara should get an end-of-year deadline to implement the Ankara protocol. «I insist that the strategy we are following is correct,» said the Greek premier. «At this time, there is no point in making predictions.»