Germany warns against strained Turkish ties

13th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

13 November 2006, Brussels (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday warned against an escalation of the European Union's dispute with Turkey over Ankara's refusal to normalize relations with Cyprus. Steinmeier, attending a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, said Germany was strongly backing current efforts by the Finnish EU presidency to forge a compromise deal allowing Turkey to open its ports to Cypriot vessels. "We want a compromise in order to avoid an escalation at t

13 November 2006

Brussels (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday warned against an escalation of the European Union's dispute with Turkey over Ankara's refusal to normalize relations with Cyprus.

Steinmeier, attending a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, said Germany was strongly backing current efforts by the Finnish EU presidency to forge a compromise deal allowing Turkey to open its ports to Cypriot vessels.

"We want a compromise in order to avoid an escalation at the beginning of the year," said Steinmeier.

Germany will take over the EU presidency from Finland on January 1, 2007. Diplomats in Berlin have often said they do not want the dispute with Turkey to cast a shadow over their presidency of the 25-nation bloc.

Echoing similar concerns, several EU ministers Monday urged Turkey to meet the bloc's demands for progress in normalizing relations with Cyprus ahead of a mid-December meeting of EU leaders.

"We hope that there is an agreement in the Turkey-Cyprus issue before the December summit," said Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot.

But EU chief diplomat Javier Solana admitted Ankara had yet to show compliance with European demands that it open its ports to Greek Cypriot vessels.

There was "no encouraging sign" from Turkey for the moment, said Solana.

Highlighting the EU's concerns over flagging political reforms in Turkey, Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said he was worried about "stagnation" in the country's reform process.

"We are all keen on making progress in the Cyprus issue," said Asselborn.

Finland is struggling to hammer out a compromise deal under which the Turkish Cypriot port of Famagusta would be opened for trade with the EU in return for a move by Ankara to allow Greek Cypriot ships into its harbours.

Turkey does not have diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cyprus which entered the EU as part of the bloc's 2004 "big bang" expansion.

Ankara has long argued that it will only comply with EU demands once the bloc ends its current economic boycott of the Turkish part of Cyprus.

Asselborn said the EU could not abandon Turkey because of its "strategic importance" to the 25-nation bloc. "But Turkey must also know that there is a lot of work lying ahead," he added.

The European Commission last week unveiled a downbeat assessment of Turkey's human rights and reform situation and gave Ankara a mid-December deadline to meet EU requirements.

If not, EU leaders meeting in Brussels on December 14-15 may decide to suspend Turkey's EU membership talks.

DPA

Subject: German news

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