- The Washington Times - Monday, October 10, 2005

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The European Union’s acceptance of Turkey as a membership candidate has prompted a blunt EU admonition to Cypriots to solve their island’s division by themselves.

“Don’t expect a magical solution from us,” Josep Borrell, president of the European Parliament, said before leaving Cyprus yesterday.

“The EU has no magic wand to pull a white rabbit from a hat,” he said, dashing Greek Cypriot hopes for an EU political mantle and pressure to remove Turkish troops from the Mediterranean island.

The tone of the statement surprised Greek Cypriots, who joined the European Union last year in the hope of adding support in their struggle against Turkey. Instead, the European Union began accession negotiations with Turkey, glossing over its refusal to recognize the Greek Cypriot government and to remove the expeditionary corps from the north of Cyprus.

After the accession talks started last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul reaffirmed his country’s position: “There will be no change in our policy until there is a lasting settlement on Cyprus.”

Although acknowledging that the partition of Cyprus has become “a European problem,” EU officials have made it clear that the protracted problem’s future lay in the hands of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, which split in 1963 and have found no common ground since.

The European Union also has stressed that any solution should be found under auspices of the United Nations. The Greek Cypriots rejected the latest U.N. plan in a referendum last year, in effect paralyzing further international efforts.

Mr. Gul confirmed Turkey’s backing for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Ankara. He also stressed continuation of Turkey’s Cyprus policy since Turkish troops landed on the island in 1974 in response to a coup to unite the island with Greece.

Turkey has since banned Greek Cypriot ships from entering its ports, crippling the popular Cypriot “flag of convenience.”

Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, chief of the Turkish general staff, has described the presence of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus as essential to Turkey’s security.

None of this had prevented the start of the talks on Turkey’s EU membership, despite considerable surprise that a candidate country continued to refuse to recognize one of the union’s members.

Turkey blames Greek Cypriots for the misfortunes of its minority on Cyprus, bolstered since the invasion by immigrants from the Turkish mainland.

Greece and Greek Cypriots prefer not to make a major issue of Turkey’s intransigence, raising no question of using a veto to block the Turkish accession process. Officials in both countries, however, acknowledge that action could be taken later.

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