NEWS

Compromise deal over EU defense force

Turkey appears ready to lift its objections to the creation of a European defense force, allowing EU leaders to move forward with the issue at their summit in Laeken, near Brussels, later this month. A compromise has been found after Washington and London worked together to broker a deal, an effort which included US Secretary of State Colin Powell and his British counterpart, Jack Straw, speaking with Foreign Minister George Papandreou on the telephone on Sunday. Powell is due in Ankara today to hold talks with Turkish officials on the European defense force, the Cyprus issue and US-Turkish cooperation with regard to Afghanistan and the possible broadening of the anti-terrorism campaign with an attack on Iraq. Reports indicated that the compromise being shaped will not function with NATO’s blanket agreement but on a case-by-case basis. Also, geographical regions will not be excluded from the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) sphere of operations. Turkey had been demanding a say in decisions regarding use of the European force and that it receive a clear assurance that it will not be used in regions where its national interests are involved, such as the Aegean and Cyprus. There is no such clear assurance, but sources say that the Americans and British have reassured Ankara that the European force will not get involved in Greek-Turkish differences. Therefore, with this compromise Athens will say that in the absence of an official commitment by the 15 EU states to Ankara to exclude the Aegean and Cyprus, Greece will be able to agree to the deal. At the same time, Ankara will say that it is covered by the assurances it has received. It issued an announcement in which it said that after the talks with the Americans and British, «there is the firm basis which allows cooperation between NATO and the EU to go forward in every field.» The Turkish daily Huriyet reported yesterday that British Prime Minister Tony Blair sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart, Bulent Ecevit, assuring him that Turkey will have a say in the EU force’s missions that might interest Ankara and that the force will not take Greece’s side in case of a conflict. In other words, this will repeat the situation existing with Greece’s membership of NATO and the EU.