NEWS

Athens backs Nicosia after EU deadlock

Athens yesterday expressed its support for Nicosia following the failure of a proposal by European Union president Finland aimed at averting a crisis with candidate state Turkey over a dispute with Cyprus. «The reaction by the Cypriot government to the (EU) presidency’s initiative was positive and extremely constructive as regards an issue which is a clear obligation of Turkey’s,» Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis said on the sidelines of a meeting of EU-Mediterranean foreign ministers in the Finnish town of Tampere. Valinakis was referring to Turkey’s obligation, as an EU candidate state, to open its air and sea ports to Cyprus. As for Athens’s stance on the breakdown of the EU initiative, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said this was being formulated. «We are giving serious consideration to the nature of our response,» Bakoyannis said following a session of the national foreign policy council in Athens. Meanwhile government sources said it was very unlikely that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan would meet on the sidelines of a NATO summit beginning in the Latvian capital of Riga today. «Following the resounding failure of the meeting between the Cypriot and Turkish foreign ministers there is no interest, on Greece’s side, for a meeting on the prime-ministerial level,» sources told Kathimerini. Nicosia yesterday said Ankara’s «negative stance» was to blame for the failure of Finnish efforts to resolve a stalemate between EU candidate state Turkey and existing member state Cyprus. «Unfortunately, despite our good will and well-intentioned efforts the Finnish presidency was unable to reach an agreement because, as with every agreement, it requires good will from all parties involved,» Cypriot Foreign Minister Giorgos Lillikas said in a written statement. Turkey refuses to open its ports to Cyprus until the EU eases the economic isolation of the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus. Finland’s proposal foresees Turkey partially opening its ports in exchange for direct trade between the EU and the north of Cyprus.