Britain says Turkey must implement protocol
Newport, Sep 1 -- British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, whose country is currently holding the EU rotating presidency, said today that the protocol extending Ankara's customs union with the EU to the ten new member states would have to be implemented, noting that during the Informal Foreign Ministers' Council, which began in Newport today.
There was a broad but not unanimous agreement on the elements that should be included in an EU statement on the Turkish declaration issued at the time the protocol was signed, saying that it did not recognise the Republic of Cyprus.
European Commissioner on Enlargement Mr. Olli Rehn noted that the signing of the protocol should lead to its ratification and full implementation, which also meant opening Turkish ports to Cypriot vessels, adding that the Turkish declaration could not question the legal relevance and full implementation of the protocol.
Speaking at a press conference on the conclusion of the first day of the two-day Informal Council, Straw said "no one questioned the conclusions, which were reached in December last year and reiterated in June with respect to Turkey" and noted he remained "reasonably confident" that the EU would be able to meet the deadline of October 3 to begin accession negotiations with Turkey.
"In the meanwhile, we have to do two sets of things. One is to agree a statement in respect of Turkey's declaration on the Ankara protocol. There were discussions yesterday at Permanent Representative level. Today we looked at elements of such a statement," he said.
He added that "there was further discussion on that, and broad but not unanimous agreement on all its elements and what I hope and I think will happen is that we will be able to get agreement on a precise text with respect of that statement at COREPER and with any luck next week."
Mr. Straw said "we touched briefly on the other thing that has to happen before the 3rd of October, if negotiations are to open on that date, and that is the process with respect to the negotiating framework."
"We didn't go into that in any detail but that will be the subject of a good deal of discussion at a Permanent Representative level and maybe at a ministerial level," he added.
Replying to questions, Mr.Straw said "it goes without saying that formal documents such as the Ankara Protocol not only have to be signed and ratified but they also have to be implemented and the first two stages are necessary but not as efficient prelude to the third and major stage, which is the implementation."
At this point, Mr.Rehn said "it is self evident that the signature of the protocol of the Ankara Agreement must lead to the ratification of the protocol in good faith and in due course and once it is ratified of course it must lead to its full implementation, which means certainly opening the ports of Turkey to Cypriot vessels."
"The Turkish declaration in the context of the signature of the protocol does not and cannot question the legal relevance and full implementation of the protocol," Mr. Rehn added.
Replying to another question, Mr. Straw said that "during the discussions today there was a broad welcome for the revised text of elements for the statement/declaration of the EU in respect of the Ankara Protocol."
"We weren't been negotiating line-by-line but I believe that officials won't have that much difficulty in agreeing a text, which ought to be agreed next week," he added.
He also said that "these discussions have taken place today in the context of the conclusions reached after many-many hours of negotiation last December and reconfirmed again as recently as the June 2005 European Council."
"And those conclusions speak about negotiations leading to membership of the EU. They raise other possibilities in rather Delphic tones but we are not in a position suggesting that the conclusions reached in December and June by the heads of state and government and the Foreign Ministers in the European Council should be amended and the discussions now are taking place in the context of those conclusions," he added.
According to Mr. Straw, the EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs also discussed the situation in Iran and Russia, the accession course of Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia, and "three sets of terrible incidents", namely the attack on a Baghdad mosque, the Katrina hurricane that hit the USA, and last year's tragedy at Beslan in Russia.