US envoy warns Turkey to do more on Cyprus
Agence France Presse, BRUSSELS, Sept 3
The United States' envoy on Cyprus called on Turkey Wednesday to make more effort to resolve the island's longstanding division, warning that its hopes of joining the EU depend on it.
Thomas Weston, noting Washington's keen wish to see Turkey be given a date to start EU entry talks next year, praised Ankara's progress on meeting the EU's political criteria for membership, but said the Cyprus issue was crucial.
"Turkey should be doing more on the Cyprus issue," he told reporters after talks with EU officials in Brussels.
"We are making as clear as we possibly can to Turkey that we, as a very strong .. supporter of Turkey's aspirations do not see how it will be possible for those aspirations (to) be achieved unless there's a solution to the Cyprus problem," he added.
Turkey has long been a candidate for EU membership, but was left off the list of 10 countries - including the internationally-recognized part of Cyprus - due to join next year, due to concerns notably about its human rights record.
But the currently 15-member bloc has pledged to make a decision in December 2004 on whether to give Ankara a start date for talks, depending on its progress on the so-called Copenhagen political criteria for membership.
"All signs are that Turkey is moving rapidly towards meeting the Copenhagen criteria," said Weston, who is visiting European capitals this week to consult over the thorny issue.
But he warned: "If its December (2004) and we are in a position where .. still does not recognize a member state of the European Union .. it's hard to see how in a political way negotiations can begin."
He notably said that a Turkish trade deal agreed with northern Cyprus last month could prove problematic.
Greece, Turkey's long-time foe and EU member has slammed the customs union accord, calling it "an illegal act that will negatively affect Turkey's road to Europe as well as the evaluation of its candidacy."
Weston commented: "There are real questions which need to be answered by Turkey" on the trade deal.
Cyprus reunification talks have been in limbo since the failure to agree on a UN settlement blueprint in March. No fresh international peace effort is expected until after the Turkish Cypriot elections