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Turkey must sign customs union protocol, says Cyprus President
2005-03-23 11:57:18

by Maria Myles

Brussels, Mar 23 (CNA) -- Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos stressed here today that Cyprus demands that Turkey signs and implements a protocol to its customs union agreement with the European Union, extending it to all ten new members including Cyprus, before 3 October 2005, when accession negotiations between the Union and Turkey are set to begin.

"I believe that Turkey will finally sign the protocol because this is what the EU demands. I cannot predict when it will sign it and what its future moves will be,'' he told a press conference after the conclusion of the European Council.

Responding to questions, he said "Cyprus demands that Turkey signs into force the protocol before the 3 October", adding that the extent to which this position will be backed by the EU remains to be seen.

President Papadopoulos reiterated that Turkey has an obligation towards the EU to sing the protocol which emanates from the December Council conclusions.

He also said that Cyprus gave its consent to the start of accession negotiations with Turkey "in the belief that the signing of the protocol will be an important step towards normalising relations between Cyprus and Turkey", which at present does not recognise the government of the Republic of Cyprus.

Papadopoulos explained that Ankara's obligation to sign some of the aspects of the protocol do not emanate from the December summit only but also from international conventions regulating international trade, such as the docking of Cyprus-flagged ships in Turkish ports and the use of Turkish air space by Cyprus.

Asked to identify a first proof of the start of signing the protocol into force, Papadopoulos said that this is not the time to bring up such an issue, indicating at the same time that Turkey's sensitivities must be taken into consideration.

"We believe the signing will be an important step which should lead to normalisation of relations between the two countries (Cyprus and Turkey), he added.

Replying to questions, he said Cyprus maintains the right to veto but pointed out that exercising this right depends on very many factors.

Papadopoulos said he had the chance to converse with various heads of state or government on Cyprus.

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