Turkey: No Cyprus deal for EU date

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey will make no concessions over Cyprus to win a date for opening its own EU membership talks, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Sukru Sina Gurel said yesterday. «There’s a wrong idea making the rounds here according to which Turkey will give way over Cyprus in order to get a date from the EU. Such an expectation is fundamentally flawed,» Gurel told a conference on the Cyprus issue. The European Commission on Wednesday offered membership for 10 candidate countries, including Cyprus, but snubbed Turkey’s demand for a date to start accession talks. Gurel said the EU had made a «chain of mistakes» since 1990 when it accepted the Cypriot government’s application for membership on behalf of the whole island. «The EU is now facing a dead end. Either it will put the entire burden on Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots, or it will jeopardize its expansion,» he said. «But it is not our duty to give up on our interests and rights to resolve other people’s problems.» Gurel said the EU hindered peace talks. «The EU is encouraging the Greek Cypriots to leave the negotiating table without a solution and join the European Union at once,» he said, warning that the EU would be making an «historic mistake» if it accepted the Commission’s proposal to accept Cyprus as a member. Such a development would «upset the balance between Turkey and Greece in the area, make the division of the island permanent and eliminate the possibility of a settlement,» Gurel said. Turkey would strengthen ties with northern Cyprus and «we shall progress toward a common future,» he said. Cypriot government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou dismissed the rhetoric. «So far the Turkish side has maintained division for 28 years and adopted a division-of-the-island stand in the talks, so nothing has changed,» he told AFP. If Ankara decided to forgo its EU aspirations then it could «interrupt talks» but he was confident that «sooner or later a Cyprus solution will be achieved,» he said. «Turkey should be encouraged in the European process and given a date for negotiations providing it meets its obligations vis-a-vis the EU and criteria concerning Cyprus.»