- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2000

NICOSIA, Cyprus Turkey has pledged to speed reforms for Cyprus required by the European Union, but diplomats see no prospect of significant concessions on some of the key issues.
They include the relentless war on the Kurdish separatists and the Turkish military presence in Cyprus, which is divided between its Greek and Turkish communities.
"No government in Ankara is likely to adopt a significantly new policy on these issues nor bow to any form of outside pressure," a Western diplomat said.
Western assessments stress the recent statements at the United Nations by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem who precluded any form of solution in Cyprus except one that would recognize a separate Turkish Cypriot state.
And there have been no tangible indications that the Turkish government would remove its military force from the north of the island, which Turkey seized in 1974.
Ankara regards the military presence in Cyprus as a shield for the Turkish minority and also an important deterrent in the event of new efforts to link the island with Greece.
"Efforts to impose solutions that do not take into account the ground realities are doomed to failure," Mr. Cem said. "The settlement of the Cyprus issue must be compatible with the existing realities on the island."
Mr. Cem's statement has dampened whatever fragile hopes existed for a breakthrough in the "proximity talks" sponsored by the United Nations between Greek Cypriot President Glafkos Clerides and Rauf Denktash, head of the Ankara-backed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. A new round of talks is set for November.
Meanwhile, in Ankara, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit reaffirmed his country's intention of joining the European Union and pledged that Turkey would speed the essential reforms, mainly concerning the legal system and human rights legislation.
"The work for harmonization with EU criteria should be accelerated and the Cabinet will take all necessary measures for that," Mr. Ecevit said.
Turkey became a candidate for EU membership in December but has been under criticism for the slow pace of reforms. According to Turkish human rights experts, the reforms should include changes in some 80 laws to make them conform to standards prevailing in Europe.
Mr. Ecevit envisages the creation of a human rights board attached to the Cabinet "to conduct a more efficient control against human rights breaches, particularly torture."
Other laws requiring amendments concern the right to hold meetings and demonstrations, abolition of the death penalty, reform of the influential National Security Council and recognition of cultural rights of Turkey's 8 million Kurds.
In August, Turkey ended its foot dragging and signed two U.N. conventions guaranteeing the social and political rights of minorities. However, the restive Kurds are officially regarded not as a minority but as "mountain Turks" and Mr. Ecevit has spoken only of "social and economic" measures in the predominantly Kurdish areas.
An estimated 70 percent of Turkey's 62 million people are in favor of joining the EU, although only 5 percent of Turkey's territory and 12 million of its citizens live on the European side of the Bosporus Strait.
Although Greece and the Greek Cypriots believe the continuing Turkish military presence in Cyprus will thwart Turkey's EU candidacy, there is no such concern in Ankara, where Cyprus is not considered to be a major problem.

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