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Media Watch 2005

01 August 2005
Source: Financial Times
Author: Vincent Boland
Comment: The following article appeared in the Financial Times of London on 1 August 2005.
Turkish parties split over customs deal with Cyprus
"By refusing to recognise the government of a member state of a union it wishes to join, Turkey may still face problems in its own EU aspirations"

Turkey's political parties and media were divided yesterday over the government's decision to extend a customs agreement with the European Union to include Cyprus, while insisting that doing so did not mean it recognised the Greek Cypriot administration in Nicosia.

Supporters and opponents of the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, took differing views on the signing, late on Friday, of a protocol extending the customs union to all 25 EU member states. Turkey had to take the step before October 3, when it is expected to begin its talks with the EU over its possible entry to the bloc.

Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, said the protocol did not change Ankara's longstanding policy of not recognising the government of Cyprus until a permanent resolution was found to the island's 31-year-old division between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

The chairman of the Ankara chamber of commerce said Turkey had made "a historic mistake" in signing the agreement.

Cyprus has been split into Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities since Turkey invaded in 1974 to quash an attempt to unite the island with Greece.

Turkey recognises the government of the Turkish Cypriot area; most of the rest of the world says the government in Nicosia represents the whole island.

The protocol was accompanied by a declaration by the Turkish foreign ministry that the protocol did not mean that Ankara had recognised the government of Cyprus. The move to extend the customs union would have been unthinkable even five years ago, when Turkey's stance on Cyprus was much less flexible than it is now.

The circumstances of its signing, however - late on Friday in Brussels after last-minute diplomacy involving Ankara, London and the European Commission - highlighted the domestic sensitivities of the Turkish government, since there was no political consensus inside Turkey on the move.

By refusing to recognise the government of a member state of a union it wishes to join, Turkey may still face problems in its own EU aspirations. Greece, which supports Turkey's entry to the EU, said at the weekend that Ankara had to end the "paradox" of refusing to recognise the government of an EU member state."