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06 09 06 - Brussels seeks ways to keep EU-Turkey talks afloat
Brussels seeks ways to keep EU-Turkey talks afloat
06.09.2006 - 09:41 CET | By Honor Mahony
In a bid to keep EU-Turkey talks from derailing completely, Brussels is considering ways of putting off dealing with the thorny Cyprus question until after Turkish elections next year.
The Financial Times reports that enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn is seeking to put the nub of the issue - access to Turkey ports and airports by Cyprus - before the European Court of Justice.

This would effectively defer the question until next year and after Turkey has been through its parliamentary elections.

Member states have given Turkey until the end of this year to open its ports to Cyprus but Ankara has refused to do so until the EU makes good on a promise to end the isolation of Turkish Cypriots in the northern part of the island.

The EU insists that the two issues are not linked resulting in a stalemate which analysts suggest will be almost impossible to get out of before Turkey's elections.

The FT quotes a senior commission official as saying "We need a plan B to limit the damage and avoid a complete suspension of negotiations, because that would kill the momentum."

"We have to find ways and means to muddle through until after the Turkish elections."

But diplomats quoted by the paper suggest that neither side would be in favour of the court option with Turkey likely to lose any legal battle on the issue and Cyprus likely to be unhappy that Ankara would no longer be under pressure to act this year.

The tone between Brussels and Ankara has considerably hardened in recent months with the EU feeling that Turkey has slowed down its reform process and Ankara feeling that the bloc is not serious about having it as a member.

On Monday (5 September) there was once again a hard exchange of words after MEPs passed a tough report on Turkey in which they complained about its lack of progress on human rights and called on Turkey to recognise the massacre of Armenians in the first world war as genocide.

Responding to the parliament's report, prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointed out that it is not binding and said that the parliament is dreaming if it thinks it would change its stance on the Armenia issue.

"Our position regarding the so-called Armenian genocide is very clear, and nobody should expect us to change it."


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