NEWS

Turkey cagey on Cyprus clash

Turkey refused on Saturday to rule out the possibility of its engaging Greece in a military clash if Cyprus is accepted as a new European Union member in December before the problem of the war-divided island’s 28-year partition is solved. In an interview with Ta Nea daily, Turkish Foreign Minister Sukru Sina Gurel described his first meeting with his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, in New York last week as «very positive.» His immediate predecessor, Ismail Cem, had boasted a good relationship with Papandreou, whom he described as a personal friend. This friendship was seen as pivotal to an improvement in cross-Aegean relations over the past three years. «I think we will be in a position to develop a good relationship both on a personal and an institutional level,» Gurel added. But questioned on Turkey’s longstanding threats of «tension» were Cyprus to join the EU divided, and asked whether this could reach the level of a military clash, Gurel said: «I hope not. In the international scene, tension does not always mean an armed conflict. But it is certain that the accession of Cyprus, of the so-called Republic of Cyprus, with the entry of the Greek part of the island to the European Union, will create big problems in the area. I hope we will not enter such a phase, for everyone must realize that such a move on behalf of the EU would upset all balance in the area and create a new climate that would by no means be positive.» Despite successive meetings throughout the year, Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash have failed to agree on a mutually acceptable peace settlement. The EU has said that, although it would rather the island were united before accession, Cyprus would be allowed to join even if still divided.