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Media Watch 2006

08 September 2006
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author:
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 8 September 2006.
Danish Prime Minister issues blunt warning to Turkey
"DANISH Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen warns that Turkey's failure to open its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and planes will harm its European Union accession progress."

"DANISH Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen warns that Turkey's failure to open its ports and airports to Cypriot ships and planes will harm its European Union accession progress.

"I expect full and unconditional implementation of the Ankara protocol -- that is free access to Turkey's port and airports, " Rasmussen told reporters after meeting Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on Tuesday.

Rasmussen, on his first visit to the island, said Turkey has a legal obligation to allow free access to Cypriot traffic in accordance with the customs agreement it signed with the EU.

"So if Turkey does not fulfill this requirement, we must look into the legal aspects of that, " he said.

The Danish premier said Turkey's opening of negotiations on a number of chapters of its EU accession course depends on Ankara implementing its contractual obligations to all EU member states -- including Cyprus.

"So non-compliance with this may have severe consequences with regard to the opening of negotiations on a certain number of chapters, " Rasmussen said.

"I think that a failure to implement Turkish obligations in full will affect the overall progress in the negotiations... and I think Turkey should take stock of that, " he added.

Rasmussen's warning followed stern words from current EU president Finland that Turkey faces at least partial suspension of its EU membership talks if Ankara fails to ratify the customs agreement.

Turkey, which officially began EU membership negotiations last October, signed a protocol in July 2005 extending its customs agreement with the bloc to the 10 states that joined the union in 2004, including Cyprus.

But its parliament has yet to ratify the document, and Turkey has continued to deny access to planes and ships flying the Cyprus flag.

Turkey's membership talks involve 35 chapters, and the EU could suspend progress on any of them if Ankara does not ratify the customs protocol.

Ankara maintains more than 30,000 occupation troops in the north, and Cyprus and Turkey have no formal diplomatic relations.

Turkey has accused the government of using the Cyprus issue to undermine its EU aspirations.

When it was accepted for accession talks, Turkey was told that its quest to join the European club would take at least a decade, and that its membership would not be guaranteed even after the negotiations were complete."