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051115 - Turkey pressed to stop blocking EU-NATO meetings
14.11.2005 - 17:49 CET | By Mark Beunderman
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Turkey has come under increased pressure to stop blocking strategic meetings between the EU and NATO, with Ankara refusing to grant a place to Cyprus at the transatlantic table.

Following the historic opening of accession talks with Turkey on 3 October, EU diplomats are becoming impatient with Ankara's continuing non-recognition of Cyprus, which also hampers EU-NATO co-operation.

Greek, Austrian and EU diplomats recalled on Monday (14 November) that because of Ankara's obstructionism, the EU has so far not been able to hold strategic talks with NATO on key issues such as terrorism, Ukraine and Darfur.

The EU and NATO can only talk about so-called "Berlin plus" issues, which involve practical co-operation between the two blocs in EU peace missions using NATO assets like intelligence.

The EU itself agreed in 2002 that Cyprus and Malta are excluded from these talks, because these states have no security arrangements with NATO.

But Brussels refuses the exclusion of the Cypriots from broader, strategic discussions with NATO, as demanded by Ankara - effectively leading to the talks not taking place at all.

"Can we hold an EU-NATO seminar on terrorism," a Greek diplomat asked. "No, we can't. Can we organise a discussion on the Ukraine? No, we can't."

"Turkey thus impedes the cooperation of two of arguably the most important western organisations – the EU and NATO," the diplomat concluded.

An EU official said "Sooner or later this deadlock should be overcome because it is hampering the development of EU-NATO relations."

An Austrian diplomat indicated it was high time for Ankara to show "goodwill", adding the stance diminishes the "perception" of Turkey in the EU.

Turkey wants EU concessions on Northern Cyprus
But Turkish diplomats rebuffed the criticism from the EU side, linking the issue to the isolation of Turkish Cypriots in the north of Cyprus, who are under an international trade embargo.

The diplomats said that the EU had not moved an inch on ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, signalling that Turkish moves on the EU-NATO issue would be made dependent on concessions from Brussels on northern Cyprus.

One source said Turkey had got "nothing" on Cyprus since a peace plan proposed by UN secretary general Kofi Annan was voted down by Greek Cypriots in April 2004.

A major European Commission free trade and aid package, aimed at alleviating Turkish Cypriots' suffering is being blocked by Cyprus.

Moreover, one Turkish diplomat added that it was not Turkey, but states sceptical about closer EU-US ties like France that hampered the development of closer EU-NATO relations.

"Turkey by its very nature of security concerns cannot hinder NATO-EU cooperation," the diplomat said, pointing out that NATO and the EU had been at the core of Turkish strategic thinking for decades.

"It is unfair to put Turkey in the role of the scapegoat whereas some EU member states themselves do not see merits in closer cooperation with NATO," he added.

Meanwhile, Ankara had itself initiated informal talks on the situation in Darfur last June, which were also attended by the Cypriots, according to the diplomat.

Accession talks
The issue of Cypriot participation in EU-NATO talks is looming in Ankara's accession negotiations with Brussels, which were kicked off in October.

Under intense pressure from Nicosia, backed by Athens, Paris and Vienna, the negotating framework with Turkey contains a reference to the issue, which states:

"Turkey will be required to progressively align its policies towards third countries and its positions within international organisations (including in relation to the membership by all EU member states of those organisations and arrangements)."

The passage was repeated in the "accession partnership" with Ankara proposed by the commission last week, which mentions the issue as one of the priorities which Ankara has to comply with within two years.
© 2005
Printed from 14.11.2005

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