Ankara hits back at Brussels over Cyprus criticism

Turkish capital has expressed disappointment over the wording of an EU statement that it said contained expressions regarding the Cyprus issue that are not compatible with international law.

Ankara hits back at Brussels over Cyprus criticism

World Bulletin / News Desk

While vowing once more to intensify efforts toward becoming a full member of the European Union, the Turkish capital has expressed disappointment over the wording of an EU statement that it said contained expressions regarding the Cyprus issue that are not compatible with international law.

During an annual debate on enlargement held by EU states in Brussels on Tuesday, the bloc expressed “deep regret” about Turkey's failure to patch up relations with EU member Greek Cyprus and pressed Ankara to show improvement “without further delay.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry responded to this warning in a written statement released, firstly noting that Turkey's “constructive and encouraging stance” to ongoing UN-led direct negotiations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders is obvious.

“Despite this fact, it is observed that the text contains expressions that are incompatible with international law due to the irrational attitude displayed by one member state again this year,” the ministry said, in an apparent reference to Greek Cyprus.

“In view of the fact that the place for the settlement of the Cyprus issue is not in EU Council Enlargement Conclusions but in ongoing comprehensive negotiations conducted under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, it is our genuine expectation from our EU member friends to strongly support the process,” the ministry added.

Ankara was angered by the EU foreign ministers' insistence that Turkey “actively support” ongoing Cyprus negotiations. While doing this, the EU ministers stressed that such support was required as “emphasized by the negotiating framework” document setting out the principles governing membership negotiations between Turkey and the 27-nation bloc.

“Recalling that negotiations have reached a more demanding stage, the Council notes that Turkey will be able to accelerate the pace of negotiations by advancing in the fulfillment of benchmarks, meeting the requirements of the negotiating framework and by respecting its contractual obligations towards the EU,” the ministers said.

Britain, Finland, Sweden and Italy had pushed the EU last week to give stronger backing to Turkey's entry efforts and accelerate growth of the bloc, troubled by concerns among many EU states over the cost at a time of economic woes in Europe.

But the push ran into long-standing opposition from Greek Cyprus, which pressed Tuesday for a more critical stance to reflect a dispute over the northern part of the divided Mediterranean island, which only Ankara recognizes as a state. Eventually, the ministers took longer than expected in agreeing upon their joint statement because of Greek Cyprus and its ally Greece, which supported adopting tougher language. But their push was largely rebuffed, diplomats said.

France and Germany are also hesitant about Turkish entry.

The foreign ministers of Britain, Finland, Sweden and Italy argued in an article in the International Herald Tribune that faster accession would bolster Turkey's democratic reforms and help revive the EU's economy.

“The doubts over admitting a large and self-confident nation are as explicit now as they were when Britain once applied -- facing strong opposition from older members of the club. Concerns are legitimate -- but the counter-argument is clear: New members can help Europe return to economic dynamism,” said the newspaper

However, talks between the European Commission and Turkey in the past two months produced no progress in resolving the Cyprus row. Turkey has also failed to start talks on a single new policy area for six months, although Belgium's Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere said on Tuesday a new “chapter,” one of 35 needed to complete entry talks, could be opened in early 2011.

The EU ministers' Tuesday message carefully mixed praise and criticism towards Ankara and in this regard was broadly similar to last year's.

“Recognizing that last year we said the same things, you can also say that it is [about] coherence,” Vanackere responded when asked whether such similarity was a symptom of stagnation in the EU-Turkish relationship.

Ankara, meanwhile, took note of the fact that the EU ministers emphasized the role Turkey and the EU can play together in the field of foreign policy.

“In this context Turkey -- as a future member country -- also asserts that further enhancing and intensifying strategic dialogue and consultations with Turkey with regard to EU foreign and security policies would contribute to the implementation of EU policies in the relevant regions,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Last Mod: 16 Aralık 2010, 10:08
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