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Turkey sticks to her position on Cyprus, as accession negotiations begin with EU
2005-10-04 11:20:57

by Katerina Nicolaou

Luxembourg, Oct 4 (CNA) -- As Turkey launched today her accession negotiations with EU, aiming to become a full member of the community, the country's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul declared Ankara's position on Cyprus, a member of the European 25-nation block, remains unchanged.

Speaking at a press conference with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, whose country is currently presiding over the EU, after the start of the membership negotiations, Gul said the Turkish position is that there are ''two separate realities'' on the island and that ''we must work to achieve a comprehensive settlement and the proper platform for this is the UN.''

Gul said Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots ''have done their share'' to achieve a comprehensive settlement and expressed hope that similar efforts will increase and that the EU will continue to put efforts in this regard.

On his part, Straw referring to the start of the negotiations, said ''we have just made history and together we have had the first ministerial meeting on the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey.''

He noted that ''we were able to meet the deadline of the 3rd of October because I began speaking (with Mr Gul) before midnight in the UK.''

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said ''it is absolutely essential that both sides (EU and Turkey) we stick to those commitments that we have taken.''

''We are starting a new era in our relations with Turkey. Now we have the chance to start building a better future for Turkey and Europe through rigorous and fair negotiations with Turkey,'' he noted.

Gul said that we have arrived today at a historic stage, adding that ''we believe that it will not only be Turkey that will win as a result of this process but it will also be the EU who will win. So this is a win-win situation. And the world will also win as a result of this accession talks.''

He pledged ''Turkey is determined to carry on with the reforms'', adding that these are reforms the Turkish people wanted to see with or without the EU.

He said obviously Turkey in 10 years will be very different from Turkey today.

''We will do what we have to do, keep our promises and we are also expecting the EU to keep its promises and this is what we will be looking for,'' Gul said.

He noted ''there are many problems, problems in our region, there are serious problems we are faced with. There are problems which have been imported into the EU and these issues and problems must be solved in their own platforms and we must do our efforts to solve these problems. For this to happen Turkey and the EU must get closer.''

Asked about Turkey's commitments towards Cyprus, Gul said the Turkish position remains unchanged.

''There is no change in Turkey's position. The position is that there are two separate realities on the island. This is a fact. What we would like to see is a comprehensive settlement. We must work to achieve a comprehensive settlement and the proper platform for this is the UN,'' Gul said.

He added ''we would like to see the problem resolved and resolved in a comprehensive manner and we would like to see Turkey, Greece, a united Cyprus, all of the Easter Mediterranean as an example of cooperation.''

Gul said ''Turkey is not after hostilities. However, it can never remain silent against unfair acts.''

''We are a country that has done her share to achieve a comprehensive settlement and the Turkish Cypriots have done the same. I hope that similar efforts will increase and I hope that the EU will continue to put efforts in this regard,'' the Turkish Foreign Minister said.

This is what needs to be done now if everybody would then serve a comprehensive settlement, he added.

Gul thanked Britain and Straw personally for their contribution to the beginning of accession negotiations, noting that the picture of the full membership is very clear in the negotiating framework.

As regards Turkey's relations with Austria he noted that ''we have good bilateral relations and we expect to even grow them further.''

As for Greco-Turkish relations he said ''our behaviour is good with our neighbours and are further improving.''

Asked about paragraph 7 of the negotiating framework and the statement issued by the British Presidency on it he said this statement consists part of the acquis communautaire.

As regards the problems of Turkey in its EU course he said many countries have faced difficulties, noting that the result is what matters and it is worth the effort.

Asked what is the difference now for Turkey, the British Foreign Secretary said the status has changed. ''We have moved to the accession stage which is different from that of candidate state. Now it is a matter to discuss chapters and make progress on them. Apart from that there is a huge symbolic importance because we want closer relations and we have proved that EU is based on values,'' he added.

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