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Media Watch 2006

28 November 2006
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Jean Christou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 28 November 2006.
Finns give up bid to avert Turkey EU crisis
"Ankara has failed to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot traffic, an obligation it has under the EU customs union protocol."

"FINLAND finally conceded defeat on its Cyprus initiative yesterday, saying a deal could not be reached on its months-long compromise initiative.

“Unfortunately, we have come to the conclusion that at this stage circumstances do not permit that an agreement could be reached during the Finnish Presidency,” said Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja.

Tuomioja was speaking after separate meetings with Cyprus Foreign Minister George Lillikas and Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul in Tampere in Finland, on the sidelines of the EuroMed conference.

The failure to reach a deal, which appears to have fallen on Ankara’s refusal to discuss the return of Varosha, is likely to have serious consequences for Turkey during next month’s EU summit.

EU Enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn said yesterday negotiations would not be stopped or frozen, but would continue more slowly. "A solution has to be found," Rehn said. "The Commission thinks negotiations cannot be completely stopped. The train will slow down, but not stop. This is not a business as usual situation."

Ankara has failed to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot traffic, an obligation it has under the EU customs union protocol. Turkey was given until December 6 to comply, but Tuomioja yesterday offered a five-day extension in view of the crisis looming over the failure of the Finnish initiative.

Tuomioja said no date had been set for any new talks on its initiative, and the EU would need time to decide the implications for Turkey's membership bid.

"Together with the Commission, we will prepare the decision on how we will handle the continuation of the accession negotiations," Tuomioja said, adding that the EU's General Affairs Council would decide the matter on December 11.

He said he could not go into details about the exact implication for Turkey's accession process. "We will consult with all member states before putting forward our proposals," Tuomioja said. "It is clear that Turkey remains a candidate country."

Erato Kazakou-Marcoullis, a senior official at the Cypriot Foreign Ministry, said EU foreign ministers must send a tough message to Turkey on December 11. "We do not support total interruption of negotiations, but we are discussing with the [EU] presidency and some countries real sanctions which are to be imposed on Turkey," she said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed her remarks: "If Turkey does not keep to the Ankara Protocol – and so more or less doesn't accept Cyprus – there cannot be a simple 'let's carry on as we are' in the negotiations with Turkey," Merkel said.

"We are conducting negotiations with Turkey that are open in terms of results, she said. "But, as party chairwoman, I say that it is and was right to offer Turkey a privileged partnership with the European Union rather than full membership."

Turkey insisted the failure to break the deadlock should not harm its bid to join the bloc. Gul told a news conference there would be no justification for freezing Turkey's accession talks and accused Cyprus of "hijacking" the process.

Cyprus “is a political problem, it is not part of the negotiation process,” he said. Finland had hoped to strike a deal that would help avoid a crisis, but its initiative, like many before it, ended up in the diplomatic graveyard of the Cyprus problem.

Diplomats in Nicosia described the latest failure as disappointing. “It was designed to avoid a crisis and now we are facing difficulties in December,” said one. “There is no question that Turkey will now face consequences if it does not implement the Ankara agreement. The other alternative is to do nothing and see who is the biggest loser.”

Immediately after Finland’s announcement, Lillikas issued a written statement saying that despite the good will of the Cyprus government and the efforts of the Finnish EU presidency, it had not been possible to reach an agreement in Tampere.

Lillikas says that negotiations would continue with the aim of reaching the necessary unanimity among the 25.

“The Cypriot government, as is well-known, has responded positively to the Finnish initiative and made many efforts for a positive outcome, which would allow the opening of the Famagusta port, for direct trade purposes, under European Commission supervision, the handing over of the town of Varosha to the UN, with the withdrawal of the Turkish occupation troops from there and the guarantee of the return of the legitimate inhabitants of the town to their homes and properties,” the statement said.

“Unfortunately… it was not possible to reach an agreement because, as with every agreement, it requires the good will of all involved parties.” President Tassos Papadopoulos told reporters later yesterday: “Unfortunately the Turkish side did not show any positive engagement.” He said Ankara had refused to discuss the return of Varosha.

According to Finnish Minister Tuomioja, all parties co-operated constructively with the Presidency, a statement from the EU said. "The aim has not been to resolve the Cyprus problem. However, the successful conclusion of our talks would also have been an encouraging step forward in view of the UN efforts to this end, for which the Finnish Presidency continues to give its full support.”"