Critical meeting for the economy

Turkey EU energy chapter to remain blocked by Cyprus
European Union candidate Turkey should face repercussions if it ignores a call from the 27-nation bloc to open its ports and airports to Cyprus, the island's foreign minister said.

Markos Kyprianou told Reuters in an interview there were still deep differences between the ethnic Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides now engaged in peace talks to reunite the island.

Turkey needs to assist the process in a constructive manner, he said. Turkey's EU entry talks will be assessed in December.

Ankara has no diplomatic relations with Cyprus, an EU member since 2004 represented in the bloc by its Greek Cypriots. Turkey must fulfil an undertaking it made in Sept. 2005 and normalise its relations with the island, Kyprianou said.

"The EU has to send a very concrete message, not just by words and statements, but in a more concrete way, that if Turkey continues to ignore its obligations there will be repercussions on its accession process," Kyprianou said. He would not elaborate.

Ankara's EU ambitions have spurred political and financial reform in a country prone to instability. Investors are sensitive to any sign its chances of joining the EU are fading.

Talks which started in Oct. 2005 are hampered by the conflict over Cyprus, and have been frozen in some areas.

Cyprus was split into rival ethnic camps when mainland Turkish troops invaded the northern third of the island in 1974 in response to a brief coup backed by Greece. That followed years of tension between the island's Greeks and Turks.

Technically, the whole of the island is in the EU, but its north is in legal limbo as a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state is recognised only by Ankara. Turkey has 30,000 troops there.

Peace talks between Cyprus's Greeks and Turks started in 2008, and while some progress had been seen, it was largely on secondary issues, Kyprianou said.

"We want a solution more urgently than anyone else," Kyprianou said. "Given the fact that we still have such a gap between the views of the two sides it could take some time before we reach an agreement."

REVIEW

At the end of this year Turkey's progress will be assessed, with particular focus on the EU's call for Ankara to open its ports to Greek Cypriot traffic. Turkey has recently said it will comply if the EU established trade links with Turkish Cypriots.

"It is unheard of for a candidate country to set its own conditions for fulfilling its obligations under the negotiating framework," Kyprianou said.

The EU's options on dealing with non-compliance are not clearly spelled out, but could range from the mildest reaction of a rebuke to the strongest which could be a talks freeze.

Kyprianou declined to say what response Cyprus may seek. Asked if Cyprus may favour severe repercussions he said: "It would have to be an adequate message."

"We are the last who would want to block Turkey's European process. We are one of the few countries that actually supports openly Turkey's accession, but not at a discount," he said.

Talks are now frozen in eight policy areas, while a ninth, energy, has been blocked by Cyprus.

Turkey has objected to Cypriot plans to explore for hydrocarbons on the eastern Mediterranean seabed. In turn, Cyprus complained to the UN that Turkey sent out warships to harass Cypriot exploration vessels last year.

"We cannot begin negotiations on the energy chapter when a candidate country, with the threat of use of force is preventing, or tries to prevent, a member state of exploring its own energy resources," Kyprianou said. "It's gunboat diplomacy."

September 18, 2009 - By Michele Kambas (Reuters) , Financial Mirror|||Turkey needs EU message on commitments-Cyprus
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