- The Washington Times - Monday, October 10, 2005

Since last December’s European Council meeting in Brussels, when Cyprus joined its European partners in offering Turkey a specific date for the commencement of EU accession negotiations, I have been asked time and again if my country regretted that decision and whether Cyprus would stay the course. I am frequently asked, “Why not block Turkey?”

There are many reasons that could have forced Cyprus to exercise its veto against the commencement of Turkey’s EU accession talks. Turkey continues to maintain more than 35,000 troops in a hostile occupation of more than one-third of my country’s territory with all the human-rights violations associated with it. Turkey constantly blocks Cyprus’s membership in a wide range of international organizations. And Ankara still refuses to allow our ships to berth in its ports or our airplanes to land in or overfly its territory.

Since the December 2004 decision, the relationship between Cyprus and Turkey has, unfortunately, continued on its rocky course. Just recently, Turkey disclaimed any recognition of Cyprus. More specifically, on July 29, 2005, when the Turkish government signed a protocol expanding the Ankara Agreement ( providing for a customs union) to cover all the EU members, it simultaneously issued a provocative declaration that said that it does not recognize Cyprus, showing clearly that it has no intention of implementing the accord.

Turkey’s attempt to unilaterally modify the terms of its accession forced the European Union to issue a counterstatement reiterating that, “Recognition of all Member States is a necessary component of the accession process,” and flatly saying of Turkey, “Failure to implement its obligations in full will affect the overall progress in the negotiations.” Just last month, the prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that he would only accept a solution leading to the permanent division of Cyprus. “One state in the north, one state in the south and a confederation… this is what [Cyprus President] Papadopoulos should accept, otherwise we cannot reach an agreement,” Mr. Erdogan stated.

Because of these and a host of other provocations, some have suggested that Cyprus should abandon its decision to support Turkey’s bid for accession.

But notwithstanding these provocations, Cyprus this week chose to stay the course toward a peaceful solution to the division of Cyprus based on the rule of law. My country extended once again the hand of friendship to Turkey.

Eight days ago, the EU ratified its decision to begin accession talks with Turkey. The 25 EU member states — including Cyprus — agreed on a “negotiation framework” for Turkey’s accession. Cyprus’ reasons for continuing on its course remain the same as they were last year.

First, the prospect of EU membership is important to Turkey’s development and can potentially foster a more secure and economically robust Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East. Second, Cyprus shares the view of its allies — our European partners, as well as the United States and Canada — regarding the benefits of Turkey joining the EU. And perhaps most importantly, Cyprus supported Turkey’s bid because its accession process continues to offer the most promising path to resolving the longstanding division of my country.

The EU accession process that Turkey will now undertake requires the resolution of outstanding issues, including the recognition of the Republic of Cyprus, the normalization of bilateral relations between the two countries and the removal of all Turkish occupying troops from Cyprus. It is simply inconsistent with the values that bind EU partners for an acceding EU country to have an occupying force in the territory of another and to fail to recognize its sovereignty.

Cyprus’s positive decision on Monday demonstrates what my government has long said: All Cypriots, whether of Greek or Turkish ancestry, strive for a genuine reunification of the island on the right terms. The government of Cyprus has been taking steps to integrate the two communities. Eight million incident-free visits have taken place across the shameful line that divides our country. We look forward to the day that all the people of Cyprus are reunited and living under a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution.

Cyprus had many issues to look past when deciding twice in favor of Turkey’s EU bid. But we are committed to reaching out to Turkey in constructive ways. It is now Turkey’s turn to prove that it takes its commitments seriously by fully complying with EU requirements.

Euripides L. Evriviades has been the ambassador of Cyprus to the United States since 2003.

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