EU inches toward resuming trade with Turk Cypriots

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union foreign ministers have agreed to relaunch moves to end an economic embargo of the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus, reports said late Monday, but diplomats said a fast resumption of trade was unlikely. The decision was reached a month after the EU partially froze entry talks with Turkey over Ankara’s refusal to open ports to Cyprus and diplomats said it was intended to show Ankara its path to Europe remained open. A statement said EU states should resume «without delay» work aimed at adopting a proposal for a regulation covering trade conditions with the Turkish-occupied north of the island. The move firmed up a commitment made last month to soften the blow of a separate decision to freeze eight of the 35 negotiating «chapters» in Turkey’s EU talks over Ankara’s refusal to open its ports to traffic from Cyprus. Turkey says it will open its ports and airports to Cyprus only if the EU makes good on promises to lift all EU trade restrictions against the island’s Turkish-occupied north. Diplomats said that despite Monday’s statement, it would not mean any quick resumption of direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots as the Greek-Cypriot government which represents the island in the EU could still delay or obstruct the move. «Will moving ahead on trade regulation be difficult? – the answer is ‘Yes,’» an EU diplomat said. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country is a strong backer of Turkey’s EU bid, said it remained to be seen if the ministers’ statement would lead to an end of the embargo. «To say it very diplomatically, I will say that this text was the object of some negotiation, very carefully phrased.» «It is a commitment by everyone… At least we will be extremely vigilant on watching progress on this and the Commission is also very committed to it,» he said. While EU countries have committed to continuing talks with Turkey, some EU politicians question the predominately Muslim country’s European credentials.

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