Villepin softens tone on Turkey-Cyprus question

31st August 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 31 (AFP) - France wants to keep EU unity intact even as it questions Turkey's membership request given its refusal to recognise Cyprus, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin told his senior diplomatic corps.

PARIS, Aug 31 (AFP) - France wants to keep EU unity intact even as it questions Turkey's membership request given its refusal to recognise Cyprus, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin told his senior diplomatic corps.

"I want to both keep European unity and obtain the necessary clarifications from Turkey," he told an annual meeting of French ambassadors gathered in Paris Tuesday.

"I have stressed the fact that for a candidate country to want to enter into a union in which it doesn't recognise one of the members poses a political problem," de Villepin said.

Although the language maintained France's warning that Ankara risked future EU membership if it continued to ignore the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government, it marked a softening of the stance and suggested that Paris was not willing to confront Turkey alone without full EU support.

Previously, Villepin had used tougher words, saying August 2 that it was "not conceivable" that Turkey start EU accession talks scheduled for October 3 without recognising Cyprus, a new EU member which joined last year.

Tuesday, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy underlined that France "does not want to open a new crisis in Europe," after its voters rejected a May referendum on adopting an EU constitution, effectively burying the proposed charter.

Many voters said fears that the European Union would not be able integrate mostly Muslim Turkey led them to vote against the plebiscite, even though the issue was unconnected to the EU treaty itself.

Turkey last month signed a trade accord with Cyprus, one of the major conditions set by the EU before the opening of the accession talks. But Ankara added a declaration stating that this move did not imply diplomatic recognition of the Greek Cypriot state.

Douste-Blazy said that while "it is not really envisageable" that Turkey could negotiate EU entry in those conditions, France would not risk splintering the EU bloc.

The European Commission on Monday repeated its position that Turkey did not have to recognize Cyprus in order for EU accession talks to begin.

Turkey has said it is upset over France's position and asserted that its attitude towards the Greek Cypriot administration would remain unchanged until a three-decades-old conflict over the island is resolved and the Turkish and Greek communities of the island are reunified.

Turkey only recognises the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, proclaimed in 1983, nine years after Turkish troops occupied the northern third of Cyprus in response to an Athens-engineered Greek Cypriot coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting the Mediterranean island with Greece.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Villepin, Turkey, Cyprus, EU expansion,

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