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US says Turkey better equipped now to solve outstanding issues
2005-02-11 11:28:40

by Apostolis Zoupaniotis

New York, Feb 11 (CNA) -- Turkey at the beginning of 2005 should feel ''confident because it is more prosperous, and more democratic, with a bright future and a key place beside the United States and as part of Europe,'' US Undersecretary for Political Affairs Marc Grossman has said.

He said ''the self-confident Turkey of 2005 is much better equipped than it was in 1989 to resolve outstanding issues such as those involving Greece, Cyprus, human rights, and religious freedom.''

In remarks to the American Turkish Society in New York, Grossman said described the Cyprus problem as ''another key matter'' and added that the US regrets that ''an historic opportunity for a viable, lasting peace was missed in last April's referendum.''

''We remain committed to seeing agreement reached. Given the vote by Turkish Cypriots in favour of peace and a future in Europe, we are taking some steps to reduce their isolation, including easing travel and trade restrictions, and to increase economic development,'' he said.

On Turkey's EU accession course, Grossman said ''we saw all of this coming together with the European Union's December 17 decision to give Turkey a date, October 3 of this year, to start accession negotiations,'' adding that ''Turkey has moved closer to EU membership because Turkey made great strides to meet the EU's Copenhagen political criteria.''

''With the EU's decision to start accession talks, and Turkey's commitment to political reforms, human rights, and economic development, Turkey now stands poised to step into an even brighter and more prosperous future,'' he said.

Grossman also pointed out that ''starting with the earthquake diplomacy of 1999, the last few years have witnessed a transformation in Turkish-Greek relations.''

''One need only look back to the difficult mid-1990s, with dialogue that was more an exchange of warnings and threats and the regular need for US intervention. Now, both governments regularly consult with each another,'' he noted.

Grossman added that ''perhaps the best evidence of this transformation in Turkish-Greek relations is that Greece was one of the best advocates in the European Union for granting Turkey a date for accession talks.''

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