Turkey to sign customs union protocol but not to recognise Cyprus
By Themis Themistocleous
Brussels, Apr 13 (CNA) -- The government of Turkey will sign and implement the protocol extending its customs union with all 25 EU member-states including Cyprus, but will not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, said First Secretary of the Turkish Permanent Mission to the EU Engin Solakoglu.
The Turkish diplomat, talking to a group of journalists from EU member-states participating in a seminar on the accession of Turkey, said that his government would implement the protocol after its signature in order to avoid ''problems with the EU'' during accession negotiations set to open on October 3 this year.
He was not in a position to give a timeframe for the implementation of the protocol, noting that it has to be ratified after its signature by the Turkish National Assembly.
Solakoglou said further that the Turkish government would at the time of signing the protocol issue a declaration to the EU on non-recognition of the Republic of Cyprus. He said the customs union protocol was a technical document while the declaration of non-recognition was a political statement.
Asked about Turkey's refusal to grant ships carrying the Cyprus flag entry into Turkish ports and to Cyprus commercial aircraft use of Turkish airspace, Solakoglou said both were considered by Turkey as ''services'' and therefore not inluded in the custons union agreement between his country and the Union. For the moment, he added, we have no intention to change this approach.
He said that Turkey after signing the extension protocol would wait for any developments in efforts for a Cyprus settlement. ''Before that, do not expect huge leaps from us'', he said.
Concluding the Turkish official said the Cyprus issue has become a European problem and that Turkey would continue efforts for a solution, adding that Ankara did not consider the Cyprus issue as a major obstacle to Turkey's European process.