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Financial Times (London) October 25, 2002, Friday
2002-10-25 09:32:42

Turkey warns on admission of divided Cyprus
If European leaders admit a divided island of Cyprus into the European Union, they will be responsible for disrupting the strategic balance of the Mediterranean region.

The warning by Oguz Demiralp, Turkey's new ambassador to the EU, was made ahead of the crucial EU summit that opened last night in Brussels to debate the costs of admitting 10 new countries, including Cyprus, by 2004. " It will be very hard for Turkey to pursue a productive relationship with the EU," Mr Demiralp said yesterday in an interview. Cyprus, he added, would be "permanently divided" if admitted without a negotiated settlement. Over the past year, the United Nations has been spearheading direct talks between Glafcos Clerides, Greek Cypriot leader, and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart, Rauf Denktash.

Despite the stalemate, there is still some hope an agreement can be reached before the EU's December summit in Copenhagen where negotiations with 10 new countries are scheduled to be wrapped up. The island has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern part after a coup attempt by the Greek junta.

Diplomats yesterday said any successful outcome of the UN-led talks depended on the outcome of Turkey's elections on November 3 and the health of Mr Denktash, recovering from a heart operation in the US.

Washington, however, has been pursuing its own agenda, applying as much pressure as possible on EU capitals, particularly Berlin, to give Turkey some date for starting accession negotiations as well as mediating in the Cyprus talks.

Washington's interest stems from its close relationship with Ankara, anchored on Turkey's strategic role in an unstable region, now more uncertain than ever as the US seeks support for a military attack against Iraq which borders with Turkey. "The US sees Turkey in the EU from a strategic point of view, a perspective not shared by the Europeans," said Mr Demiralp.

Turkey became a candidate member in 1999 but EU diplomats said it was too early to offer Turkey a date because it did not yet meet the "Copenhagen Criteria" which sets out preconditions for talks that include the rule of law, civilian rule and the end of torture.

Mr Demiralp disagreed, insisting Turkey had made substantial progress to justify a date for starting accession negotiations. The influence of the military was misunderstood, he said. On issues related to torture and re-trials, it was only a matter of time before legislation was either amended or implemented. "If the EU does not give us a date in Copenhagen, it will be more than a disappointment for Turks," said Mr Demiralp. "It will be a deception."

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