NEWS

Turkey rejects EU force deal born in Seville

Turkey has rejected a deal offered by the EU leaders at their meeting in Seville over the weekend but talks will continue in an effort to find a solution to a dispute that has blocked operations of the EU’s rapid reaction force. Athens would like to see a solution by July 1, when the Spanish presidency ends and the Danish one begins, because Greece will assume the EU leadership with regard to defense issues. This, officials believe, may push Athens into making a compromise it might not make if it were not responsible for the negotiations. Negotiations will continue until the end of the Spanish presidency, Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis told Athens’s Skai radio yesterday. In Seville, Greece and its EU partners agreed on a deal in which an agreement between Turkey, the USA and Britain (known as the «Ankara text») would be amended to make clear that a NATO country could not attack an EU member, and a declaration would be made that «consultations and cooperation between the EU and third countries does not undermine its autonomy in decision-making, nor can it work against the integrity and national sovereignty of (EU) member states.» Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem, however, said in an interview with the CNN-Turk television channel on Sunday that «Turkey will not deviate from the Ankara Agreement. If the EU asks Turkey to make a contribution in coming periods, Turkey will make the necessary contribution.» In Seville, French President Jacques Chirac likened the Spanish mediation efforts to «a labor of Heracles.» Greece had objected to the «Ankara text» because it gave Turkey a say in the EU force’s operations in areas that Athens considers crucial, such as the Aegean Sea and Cyprus. This deal had led to Greece being isolated by its EU partners as they hastened to placate Turkey so that it would not block the new force from using NATO assets. Faced with the deadlock, the EU leaders decided to make their rapid reaction force operational on an ad hoc basis, without a framework for cooperation with NATO. This is to be tested this autumn when the EU force takes over operations in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Agence France-Presse quoted a European diplomat as saying on Sunday that the other EU leaders decided against asking Greece to lift its veto on the question after they failed to get a clear agreement from Turkey on modifications to the compromise. «When it was shown to the Turks, they said, ‘Slowly, there’s no rush. We’re going to study it,’» he said. Prime Minister Costas Simitis told reporters that «the negotiations will continue.» He stressed the favorable outcome of the summit: «There are no adjustments or operations that can lead to sovereign rights and national interests not being respected, to the questioning of territorial integrity and borders.»