Turkey rejects EU’s Cyprus offer to open talks on new chapters

Ercan Yavuz
Ankara

Despite mounting pressure from the European Union to open its ports and airports to the Greek half of Cyprus, Turkey will not be doing so until a settlement on the divided island is reached, a senior state official has said.
Turkey strongly believes that the EU has not been constructive in its efforts for a permanent solution on the island and has rejected out of hand a proposal to open two more chapters of negotiation if Turkey complies with the EU’s demand. Turkey started its accession talks in 2005, but progress has been slow, largely because of the dispute over Cyprus. Turkey refuses to open its ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus, urging the EU to first end the isolation of Turkish Cyprus as it promised back in 2004, following a referendum on a UN reunification plan in both parts of the island — accepted by the Turkish Cypriots and rejected by the Greek Cypriots.
The EU insists that Turkey is obliged to open its ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus under an agreement known as the Ankara Protocol. There have been intensified efforts in the past two months to overcome this obstacle. In a recent attempt, Belgium, which is currently chairing the EU presidency, promised Turkey that two more chapters of negotiation would be opened in return for complying with the Ankara Protocol.
A senior government official who has asked to remain unnamed told Today’s Zaman that opening ports and airports to Greek Cyprus would be out of the question until a permanent settlement is found.
The EU offered opening the energy chapter and the justice and fundamental freedoms chapter in return for opening the ports. Another proposal from Belgium was enlarging the extent of the bylaws of the Green Line between the Turkish and Greek sides to improve trade between them. The government says the proposals are not adequate. It has also relayed to the EU that the party at fault for the stall talks between Turkey and the bloc is the EU, which unjustly accepted Greek Cyprus into the bloc as a full member. The government emphasized that the EU should act on the principle of equality and try to produce solutions on the Cyprus issue and other issues that lay an equal amount of burden on both sides.
In a statement he made on Nov. 13, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu recalled that Ankara lent its full support to a UN reunification plan back in 2004. He said, “If the Greek Cypriots had also said ‘yes’ to this peace [plan], then today there would be neither a divided border nor a closed port.”
‘Don’t spoil the Greeks’
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has been considering the proposal for a month, but its ultimate decision, to not open its ports, has finally been made. According to the same source, the government believes that opening the ports would only “spoil the Greek side further.”
The government believes that the right to veto membership talks with Turkey, given by the EU to the Greek Cypriots, is encouraging them to avoid finding a solution. With this decision, the government is effectively taking the risk of continuing the full membership process in its current stalled manner.
In addition to its stance that the two chapters suggested are completely irrelevant to finding a lasting solution in Cyprus, the government understands that there is no guarantee that the Greek Cypriots will not veto any of the remaining chapters. Turkey has firmly stated that it needs to see some concrete steps from the EU and Greek Cyprus toward a solution before it can open its ports.
EU countries should fly to Ercan
The government has learned well what the EU can do in the way of a solution. It specifically demands that the EU stop acting like a bloc that only protects the interests of the Greek side and start taking steps to lift the embargo on the Turkish side. Such steps could include some EU countries scheduling flights to the Ercan Airport in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC). This has been expressed by EU chief negotiator Egemen Ba??? on a number of occasions.
Statements from President Abdullah Gül during his visit to Lisbon to attend a NATO summit last week, along with the obvious tension between him and French President Nicolas Sarkozy there, also indicate that opening ports is not possible at this time. Currently, eight negotiation chapters are blocked due to the veto of the Greek Cypriots. France and Germany have backed this stance, while the UK gives full support to Turkey.
During the NATO summit, Sarkozy said: “We are a 27 member family. We have our own values. We have to act accordingly and this is a fact of life.” In response, Gül said: “That is very true. The Greek Cypriots are a member of the EU and this is a fact of life. But there are also other facts of life. For example, Greek Cypriots do not represent the entire island. There is an unsolved problem there. There are promises that haven’t been kept. These are also facts of life. You speak the truth, I respect your principles. But why, even as you said there would be no full membership without an end to the impasse, did you grant Greek Cypriots full membership in 2002 and violate that rule? Were you unable to remember these principles then?”
In addition to the government’s stance, the makeup of the seat structure in Parliament also makes it impossible to open the ports to Greek Cyprus. Even if the government wanted to open the ports, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which are increasingly leaning toward suspension of the membership process, would never vote in favor of opening the ports. Be that as it may, the government strongly believes that the EU should take some first steps on this issue.


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