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Turkey could face suspension of EU talks: Cyprus

Written by: Staff

Nicosia, Oct 29: Turkey could face a suspension of EU entry talks for failing to meet its obligations by the end of this year, but the door to Turkish EU membership should be left open, Cyprus said today.

Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said delaying or conditionally suspending the talks were alternatives to the two ''extremes'' of allowing Turkey to continue negotiations unhindered, and a complete breakdown in talks.

''I have never spoken about exercising a veto ... Vetoes are for those who do not wish to see Turkey face any sanctions (for non compliance), not the opposite. Not us,'' Papadopoulos, Turkey's fiercest critic in the EU, told the Cypriot daily Phileleftheros in an interview.

Turkey's progress after a year of accession negotiations will be assessed on November 8. Talks have been dogged by a slowing pace of reforms and its failure to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot traffic. There is also opposition to Turkish EU membership in some EU member states.

''Between the two extremes of Turkey continuing its talks unhindered, or talks being interrupted, there are a variety of measures each country will look at. The options discussed are delays, a suspension, (or) a conditional suspension for talks to restart if and when Turkey complies,'' said Papadopoulos.

Ankara barely managed to close one negotiating chapter this year because of opposition from Cyprus. Turkey, a guarantor power of Cyprus under a convoluted deal giving the former British colony independence in 1960, invaded the island in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup there and still has thousands of troops in the north of the divided island.

Cyprus, represented in the EU by Greek Cypriots, is using its veto to block the opening of negotiations on EU policy areas or ''chapters'' until it gets compliance on ports and airports.

Not Business as Usual

Asked what Nicosia would do if the deadlock persisted, Papadopoulos said: ''Turkey cannot be permitted to continue its accession negotiations unhindered like it is business as usual.'' ''For talks to resume a unanimous decision would be required and many countries are worried that is uncertain. We are weighing up which, of the possible options that I have mentioned, could muster the widest possible support,'' he added.

Finland, the current EU president, is working on a deal that would see Turkey open a limited number of ports to Greek Cypriot traffic.

Other elements of the package would be the opening of direct trade with the economically isolated Turkish Cypriot breakaway state, and the Turkish Cypriot handover of control over a Greek Cypriot resort town in north Cyprus to the United Nations.

Both sides are holding out for changes. The Turkish side wants a Turkish Cypriot airport in the deal, and the Greek Cypriots want the resort made accessible to its 40,000 former inhabitants.

''The airport is out of the question. This is an issue of sovereignty. The Turks may be asking for it, we won't even discuss it,'' said Papadopoulos.


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