11 December 2006, Brussels (dpa) - European Union foreign ministers Monday remained deadlocked over demands for a partial freeze in Turkey's bid to join the 25-nation bloc, with diplomats predicting the rift would dominate a summit of EU leaders in Brussels later this week. Finland as current EU president is hoping to keep Europe's divergent response to Turkey's ban on Greek Cypriot traffic off the December 14-15 EU summit agenda. But German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned Monday that the E
11 December 2006
Brussels (dpa) - European Union foreign ministers Monday remained deadlocked over demands for a partial freeze in Turkey's bid to join the 25-nation bloc, with diplomats predicting the rift would dominate a summit of EU leaders in Brussels later this week.
Finland as current EU president is hoping to keep Europe's divergent response to Turkey's ban on Greek Cypriot traffic off the December 14-15 EU summit agenda.
But German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned Monday that the EU divide could only be bridged by EU leaders.
"The positions of some member states still differ widely," Steinmeier cautioned. The EU was not planning to break off accession talks with Turkey, he added.
"Turkey's rapprochement towards Europe, the integration of Turkey in the system of European values is a project of outstanding importance," Steinmeier said.
"We should not destroy something that has grown over a long period in just a couple of days," he added.
Turkey does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004 as a divided island. As such it does not currently allow Greek Cypriot traffic access to its harbours and airports.
EU talks currently centre on suggestions by the European Commission - the EU's executive arm - for a partial suspension of negotiations in eight out of 35 negotiating chapters.
The recommendation has been welcomed by several EU states as a "good basis" for a compromise on how to deal with Ankara.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel - whose coalition government is divided on Turkey's EU membership - has said Berlin supports the commission proposal.
But Cyprus has accused the commission of being too soft on Ankara and says it wants a total suspension of negotiations. Other EU states, traditionally opposed to Turkish accession, have taken an equally tough line.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot said talks with Turkey should be put on ice in 10 areas while Austria's Ursula Plassnik has called for a slowdown in negotiations.
But Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said the bloc should not close its door completely to Turkey. He warned, however, that the current "smorgasbord of national interests" was likely to continue.
Ankara, however, also has powerful allies in the EU. Stressing Turkey's strategic importance, Britain, Spain, Italy, Sweden and several EU newcomers including Estonia and Poland have called for less harsh action against Turkey.
Britain is insisting that only up to three negotiating chapters should be put on ice.
Pro-Turkey countries in the EU are also unhappy with other aspects of the commission's stance, including demands that negotiations that are suspended in certain areas can only resume if all EU states vote for such a move.
These states also oppose the commission's insistence that negotiations on areas which are not suspended can only be fully closed once Ankara complies with EU demands on Cyprus.
Turkey offered last year to provisionally open a major seaport to Cypriot vessels for a year, pending the completion end-2007 of United Nations negotiations on the reunification of Cyprus.
Ankara also said it was willing to open one airport to Greek Cypriot traffic.
It added, however, that it "looks forward" to EU moves to end the economic isolation of Turkish Cyprus by allowing international trade with the north via the port of Famagusta and Ercan airport.
Nicosia, however, says this would constitute indirect recognition of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state. EU governments also said Turkey must give its proposal in "written form."
Putting pressure on the EU, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul warned in an opinion piece published in the International Herald Tribune on Monday that any breakdown of negotiations would impact on Ankara's bold reform efforts.
"The negotiation process means Turkey would have to make huge changes ... the EU should continue to encourage our efforts," Gul wrote.
"Turkey will be a country far different than it is today," Gul said, adding that the EU must not discourage Ankara's efforts to conform to "EU requirements and democratic standards."
Turkey, with a population of 70 million, would be the first Muslim country to join the Union. However, even if negotiations for EU entry do resume, Turkish admission is not expected before 2020.
Subject: German news