Christofias: we could not have predicted the crisis

IMPLEMENTING a rare oath of silence, the government and party leaders remained tight-lipped after yesterday’s National Council meeting was convened to discuss what treatment Turkey could expect from Cyprus at next week’s key EU summit.

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said the top advisory body to the president had continued consultations on Turkey’s EU evaluation due at the European Council summit next Thursday and Friday.

Refusing to be drawn into details, Stefanou restricted his comments to saying the council had authorised Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou to take the appropriate action at next Monday’s General Affairs Council, where EU foreign ministers will meet to discuss the latest draft report on Turkey’s accession path.

Cyprus has long warned Turkey that it would face repercussions in December if the candidate country failed to meet its EU obligations to Cyprus, involving opening its ports to all member states, normalising relations with the Republic and contributing positively to the ongoing talks for a solution.

However, as December 10 inches closer, the signs from Europe are that Turkey will not be pressed into a corner. Brussels and a majority of member states, whether they support Turkish accession or not, have made it clear they do not wish to threaten the delicate balance needed to keep Turkish political and public opinion in favour of continued reform and its pro-West orientation.

Grilled repeatedly by reporters on the direction the council was taking, Stefanou said he would not enter into dialogue on the possible scenarios that could take place before next Monday, saying: “These are important moments, we are all obliged to be careful.”

There was understanding on a number of issues as the leaders had a “good discussion” mainly on Turkey’s evaluation but also on the direct talks, said Stefanou.

At its last meeting, the National Council had warned Turkey could not progress on its EU accession path unhindered if it failed to meet its obligations to the EU and Cyprus by December.

In a shift away from standard practice, party leaders yesterday kept a low profile as they left the presidential palace, refusing to comment on the council’s deliberations. DIKO leader Marios Garoyian said the government spokesman’s statements represented the views of the National Council. Asked whether the last decision by the council still stood, he replied: “It is fully applicable.”

EVROKO leader Demetris Syllouris said the party leaders had pledged not to make any statements until the General Affairs Council on Monday.

Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Demetris Droutsas was quoted yesterday saying that Greece and Cyprus were seeking a common EU position on Turkey based on a strict and objective evaluation of Turkey’s EU course.

He noted that Greece and Cyprus wanted the same thing, for the EU 27 partners to reach a common position on what Ankara has done so far, noting that a unified voice would have more value and political weight.

The Greek official acknowledged the task ahead, given the differences of opinion among the 27 on Turkey, adding that all possibilities were open until Monday, when the foreign ministers will meet. Greece and Cyprus were in contact on a daily basis, he said, saying he had already been briefed by Kyprianou about the discussions held at the National Council.

“We have made it clear from the first moment that Greece, the Greek government, will fully support the decisions of the Cyprus government to the end. We will be side by side on the front line,” said Droutsas.

Back in Cyprus, Stefanou was asked to comment on reports that President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat had agreed to have bursts of three-day negotiations at the their respective homes in January. The spokesman replied that there had been a discussion in the council on intensifying the talks process.

“There is no decision, simply a discussion on the matter and an intention. From there on, we are waiting to take decisions…let’s not hurry,” said Stefanou.

The spokesman noted that the UN-controlled Nicosia Airport where talks are currently held did not have the necessary infrastructure to provide the opportunity for prolonged talks throughout the day.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said yesterday he hoped to see further progress in the talks over the coming months, after meeting with Talat in London.

“Having striven for a settlement for many years, Mehmet Ali Talat knows well how vital a solution in Cyprus is for all Cypriots as well as for the region and for Europe. I commend both leaders for the perseverance and resolve they have displayed in their search for a settlement,” said the British PM.

“The two Cypriot leaders have shown enormous courage and determination to get this far,” he said, adding that “with political courage and compromise on both sides, these talks have every chance of success”.

Cyprusmail, By Stefanos Evripidou Published on December 5, 2009
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