NEWS

‘Turkey holds key’ on Cyprus

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Turkey should help solve the division of Cyprus after its November 3 election if it wants closer relations with the European Union, the European Commission said yesterday. EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen told the European Parliament he hoped the Turkish elections, after a period of protracted political turmoil, would produce a government that is «stable, democratic, reformist and pro-European in its agenda.» That administration should make possible a deal between the Turkish-occupied northern part of the island and the Republic of Cyprus, so that a united island could join the EU in 2004, Verheugen told the EU Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. «I would welcome it if, after the Turkish elections, there was clear progress on the issue of Cyprus,» he said. «Turkey holds the key to the solution of the problem.» The EU is prepared to admit a divided island if necessary, but is keen for a political settlement before Cyprus joins. «We need a Cyprus that speaks with one voice in the EU,» Verheugen said. «We need a centralized body there capable of taking action. A virtual body is not sufficient.» He did not elaborate on how the EU would reward Turkey for cooperating on Cyprus, and made clear that Ankara was unlikely anyway to achieve its goal of receiving a date in December for beginning its own EU membership talks. «We will be able to react correctly in political terms if there is some kind of agreement (on Cyprus)… I hope Turkey is aware that its attitude on this issue will influence the overall political atmosphere between the EU and the country,» he said. Verheugen reiterated entry talks with Turkey could begin only once it has met the EU’s Copenhagen criteria on democracy and human rights, standards it has not yet met.