Straw says Turkey's EU course runs alongside UN efforts on Cyprus
by Rebekah Gregoriades
Newport, Sep 2 (CNA) - British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, whose country currently holds the EU rotating presidency, said today that alongside Turkey's process to begin accession negotiations with the EU, there was the UN-sponsored process to reach a settlement of the problem of Cyprus and a series of UN resolutions on the matter.
Speaking at a press briefing on the conclusion of the two-day Informal Council of EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs, which took place in Newport, Wales, Straw said the EU had to ensure that the process for Turkey's accession was on the same basis of any other member state, taking into consideration the UN-sponsored process on Cyprus.
Straw said a series of issues were discussed during today's works, including the Middle East and the withdrawal of the Israelis from Gaza and four settlements, the situation in the Western Balkans, the avian flu, the trafficking of weapons, the millennium summit and the development goals.
''We managed to pack in a great deal of work'' during the two-day Council, Straw pointed out, adding that during the working lunch, the EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs were joined by their counterparts of Croatia and Turkey.
Replying to questions about Turkey's application to join the EU, Straw reminded the conclusions of the December 2004 European Council and their confirmation at the June 2005 Council, pointing out that those conclusions said the EU looked forward to opening accession negotiations with Turkey on October 3 this year.
Straw noted that there were certain matters to be dealt with in order to achieve the commencement of the negotiations on the specified date.
To other questions, Straw said Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn was ''very positive about facilitating'' the opening of negotiations with Croatia and Turkey'' and noted it was important to ensure that the conditions for accession are followed.
Asked if he felt Turkey was being cornered into recognising the Republic of Cyprus, Straw said ''the Cyprus dispute has a very complicated history.''
''Alongside the process to start negotiations, there is also the UN-sponsored process for a settlement,'' he said and pointed out relevant UN resolutions on the question of Cyprus.
He added that ''we have to ensure that the process for EU accession is on the same basis of any other member state, taking into consideration the UN-sponsored process.''
Asked why he had used the phrase ''reasonably confident'' during yesterday's press briefing when referring to the prospects of opening accession negotiations with Turkey on October 3, instead of saying he was certain, Straw pointed to certain ''obvious facts'' and two issues that had to be tackled before then, noting that it would be ''unwise'' to say he was certain.
He named these issues as being firstly the EU statement in response to the Turkish declaration, which accompanied the signing of the additional protocol extending its customs union to the ten new EU member states and said that Ankara did not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, and secondly Turkey's negotiating framework.