EU warns Turks to open ports

The European Union said on Saturday that Ankara’s refusal to let Greek-Cypriot ships and planes load and unload cargo in Turkey puts at risk the country’s already contentious negotiations to join the EU. Turkey refuses to sign a protocol extending its customs union with the EU to the 10 new nations that joined the EU in 2004, including Cyprus. «The commitment has to be respected,» Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja told reporters after hosting a two-day meeting of his EU counterparts in Lappeenranta, southern Finland. «If this is not the case, we will have a serious situation we will have to discuss at the EU level,» he added. «At the minimum, it is understandable that we cannot continue membership negotiations on any items pertaining to the single market,» he said when asked what the consequences of a Turkish refusal would be. Diplomats said that it could affect up to a dozen of the 35 policy areas into which EU law is divided, but would not prevent talks on areas such as education, culture and health. The European Union demands that Turkey recognize Cyprus by the end of 2006. If not, Ankara’s entry talks – which began last fall – may be suspended. Turkey says it will only open its ports if the EU makes good on a pledge to end the economic isolation of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state in northern Cyprus, a move which Nicosia is blocking. Diplomats said the European Union would make intensive efforts in the next few weeks to try to unblock the issue of direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots, but Nicosia has resisted all pressure so far. (Combined reports)