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Media Watch 2006

25 August 2006
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Andreas Hajipapas
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 25 August 2006
US moots plan to avoid Turkey accession crisis
"Nicosia remains adamant in its position that Turkey should meet fully the obligations and commitments it undertook towards the EU—including the opening of its ports and airports to Cypriot traffic-- and rejects the idea of tradeoffs on the Cyprus issue"

"THE US is engaged in diplomatic efforts to avert a major crisis in Turkey’s EU accession talks over the Cyprus issue, according to reports from Brussels.

Washington is said to be proposing a trade-off deal that could remove a key obstacle to Turkey's ongoing entry negotiations with the European Union.

The idea is part of "various options" under consideration, according to the Euobserver agency, providing EU related news.

The plan would see ports and airports in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus placed under UN inspection.

UN supervision of air and sea traffic would "pave the way for the Cypriot government in Nicosia to agree to direct EU trade with the North - something it has so far fiercely rejected as undermining its sovereignty."

This in turn could lead Turkey to end its current embargo on Cypriot vessels and planes - a key requirement by Brussels which Ankara has so far ignored.

Difficult

Matthew Bryza, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European affairs, who visited the island in July, is said to be the mastermind of Washington's latest diplomatic moves.

EU diplomats see the Cyprus ports issue as "very difficult," predicting a major crisis in Turkey's EU accession process this autumn, if the problem remains unresolved, with Nicosia determined to block the opening and closing of new negotiating chapters, euobserver said.

The issue is set to be the dominant theme in the European Commission's report on Turkey's accession progress, due out on October 24.

Washington's diplomatic intervention is in line with its long-term strategic goal to integrate Turkey, a key Nato ally placed in the centre of the Muslim world, into western structures.

But Nicosia remains adamant in its position that Turkey should meet fully the obligations and commitments it undertook towards the EU—including the opening of its ports and airports to Cypriot traffic-- and rejects the idea of tradeoffs on the Cyprus issue.

Government spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis said this week "Why should the Cyprus Republic pay the cost of Turkey’s European course? "

Managed

Foreign Minister Yiorgos Lillikas, asked what Nicosia would do if Turkey continued to refuse to abide by its customs union protocol obligations replied "In such a case, we will not consent to the opening and closing of new chapters in Turkey’s entry negotiations with the EU. And this will not be the only step we will take".

Lillikas has also stressed that Nicosia’s proposal submitted to the EU earlier still was valid - that Famagusta port be jointly managed by Greek and Turkish Cypriots, under EU auspices and that the fenced city of Famagusta (Varosha) be returned to its lawful inhabitants.

"Our position remains firm and non-negotiable," he declared.

Nicosia is said to be also planning other moves and initiatives to counter the American ploys.

According to a report in Phileleftheros, the Cyprus government is being sounded on a new formula, that instead of Varosha being returned, work should start on the reconstruction of the fenced off part of the deserted city. This might take two years, during which time other ideas could be promoted about its future.

Close touch

Euobserver said the trade-off solution proposed by Washington comes as a challenge to the official line of the European Commission, which has always maintained that Turkey’s customs union obligations cannot be made dependent on trade to northern Cyprus.

But some EU officials privately state that the two issues are "linked," adding a compromise solution is possible. In such a case, Greek and Turkish Cypriot politicians are likely to come under "heavy international pressure to make concessions," it was added."