Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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Media Watch 2004

15 January 2004
Source: Guardian
Author: Ian Black
Comment: The following article appeared in the Guardian of London on 15 January 2004.
Europe asks Turkey to help unite Cyprus

Turkey was warned yesterday that it will be difficult to start long-awaited membership talks with the European Union next year if Cyprus remains divided.

Bertie Ahern, the Irish prime minister and holder of the EU presidency, and Romano Prodi, president of the European commission, both signalled the need for a peace settlement. Technically, it is not a condition for beginning negotiations, but is bound to play a role when the then 25 EU leaders decide at their December summit whether to approve the start of what will be a long process.

Mr Prodi flies to Ankara today to "repeat the strong wish of the EU to welcome Turkey as an equal and respected member" and praise reforms undertaken to meet the union's accession terms. The first visit by an EC president for 40 years is intended to signal goodwill in advance of the commission's crunch decision on whether the country of 65 million Muslims has met the so-called Copenhagen political criteria for membership.

It will then be up to the member states to decide to start negotiations "without delay". Britain is a keen advocate of EU membership for an Atlanticist fellow Nato ally; so is the United States. France is bitterly opposed, though German opposition has softened in recent months.

Last November the commission saw "significant progress" by the moderate Islamist government of Recep Tayib Erdogan, but said more needed to be done on the independence of the judiciary, human rights, and the Kurds.

"There has been huge progress but we will also look at the question of implementation of legislation," Mr Prodi said in the European parliament.

Mr Ahern said: "It's a reality that the perception is that if we made progress in Cyprus, it would be very helpful.""