Turkey rejects EU Cyprus proposals

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Turkey rejects EU Cyprus proposals
Oluşturulma Tarihi: Kasım 07, 2008 18:55

ANKARA – A long-lasting row between Turkey and the European Union over Cyprus’ participation in NATO-led operations is deepening, as Ankara refused Brussels’ fresh proposals to overcome the deadlock through informal methods.

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“Turkey refused all proposed informal arrangements (to solve the problem). We are at a dead end,” Gérard Araud, the political director of the French Foreign Ministry presiding over the EU-term presidency, told a small group of journalists here yesterday.

The problem is stemming from efforts to develop cooperation between NATO and the EU, as the two organizations are composed of almost all the same countries.

Turkey, a NATO member who wants to join the EU, is not against cooperation in principle, but objects to the participation of its regional rival, Cyprus, in the process. As a matter of fact, Cyprus and Greece blocked Turkey’s participation in the European Defense Agency, or EDA, which makes the current situation more complex.

An agreement called Berlin Plus was reached in the early 2000s, but full membership of Cyprus to the EU before finalizing the comprehensive settlement left it futile. According to Araud, both the French presidency and the EU spent a good amount of energy to solve the problem. At the beginning, a step-by-step approach was proposed that did not produce a change to Turkey’s objections.

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New EU proposals
“In return for a step taken by Turkey in NATO, a counter-step would be taken by the EU. But for Turkey, giving something to Cyprus would mean recognition of Cyprus,” Araud said. “Practically, Cyprus needs to make a security agreement with NATO in order to establish ties with the alliance, which is being blocked by Turkey.”

To overcome the growing difficulty, the EU offered Turkey the chance to find practical methods, which would not hurt the official positions’ of the parties. Among them was the establishment of an informal mechanism between the NATO and EU secretary-generals for foreign policy and security issues. Secondly, the EU asked Turkey to authorize its military authorities in Kosovo to make the necessary arrangements on the ground.

Last month, diplomats from the major EU countries, France, Germany and Britain came to Ankara to revise the situation, but Turkey did not change its position.

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“This sort of blocking everything makes Turkey’s friends in NATO nervous and this is not in Turkey’s interest either,” the French diplomat said. From the Turkish perspective, the problem requires a “global package” that can only be possible with the final settlement of the Cyprus problem. But as to the establishment of an informal mechanism between NATO and the EU, Turkish diplomatic sources said “the proposal was still being discussed.”

Criticisms in progress report
The current deadlock is also mentioned in the European Commission’s recently published progress report. “Concerning EU-NATO relations beyond the ‘Berlin Plus’ arrangements, Turkey continues to object to EU-NATO cooperation which would involve all EU member states. This created problems for EU-NATO cooperation in the context of civilian ESDP missions, in particular in Kosovo and Afghanistan,” the reports read.

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