- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 10, 2006

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Greece and Cyprus say they will act to block Turkey’s entry to the European Union should the rest of the EU accept a Turkish proposal to end a dispute over Greek Cypriot access to its airports and harbors.

Ankara has tentatively offered Cyprus access to one port and one airport — not in Turkey but in Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus. But the governments in Athens and Nicosia have dismissed that as a ploy to soften the recommendations of EU foreign ministers, who meet today to prepare for a summit on Thursday.

The two governments also rejected Turkey’s proposal to link the accession process to its request for an end to the international economic embargo against the Turkish Cypriot community.

The partition of Cyprus between its Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities has defied all efforts at a diplomatic solution since Turkish troops landed on the island in 1974.

In the past few weeks, EU diplomacy has focused on the problem. Finland’s prime minister, Matti Vanhanen, who holds the rotating EU presidency, has said Turkey must do more. “The Union has certain conditions, and they must be fulfilled.”

Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Yiorgos Lillikas described Turkey’s tentative proposal to open Ercan airport and Famagusta harbor for a 12-month period as “a mockery of the European Union.”

Said Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos: “Turkey should realize that it cannot push its way into the EU as it did with Cyprus in 1974.”

In Athens, the influential Kathimerini daily wrote that accepting Turkey’s proposal “would legitimize the demotion of Cyprus into some secondary category of member states.”

The approaching summit is likely to be dominated by the Cyprus dilemma and its impact on the EU, pitting backers of the Turkish candidacy against opponents. Last week, President Bush telephoned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, offering his encouragement.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned the EU against sending a “negative signal” to Turkey, while France and Germany, after urging a partial freeze of Turkey’s accession talks, have suggested another deadline rather than “any kind of ultimatum.”

Turkey is a signatory of the so-called “Ankara protocol” regulating trade links between candidate countries and the most recent EU members, including Cyprus.

Throughout the recent negotiation, Turkey has said that admitting Greek Cypriot ships and aircraft would be tantamount to recognition of Nicosia’s Greek Cypriot government.

The latest offer received a mixed reaction from the Turkish media and the influential military. Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the general staff, complained that he had not been consulted but had learned of the proposal from television.

“Was it not necessary to inform a group that has 40,000 soldiers [in Cyprus] of such an important decision?” he was quoted as saying by the daily Hurriyet.

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