Britain urges progress on Cyprus, backs Turkey's EU bid

6th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

UN-brokered peace talks in Cyprus began in September 2008 but progress has been slow and the two sides remain deeply divided on key issues.

Ankara -- British Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged Thursday progress in talks to reunite Cyprus and pledged support to ensure the 35-year conflict does not derail Turkey's bid to join the European Union.

Speaking after talks with Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, Miliband called for "full progress on Cyprus and full progress on the Ankara protocol issues" -- a reference to a trade pact between Turkey and the EU that requires Ankara to allow Greek Cypriot vessels to use its sea and air ports.

Turkey's refusal to implement the pact has already prompted the EU to freeze eight chapters in Turkey's accession talks and the bloc may consider fresh sanctions at a summit in December.

"People are talking about car crashes in December and certainly we are determined to avoid that," Miliband said.

Since starting membership negotiations in 2005, Ankara has opened talks only in 11 of the 35 chapters candidates must complete. The process has been slowed down also by opposition to Turkey's accession by some EU members, notably France and Germany.

The EU "made pledges to Turkey about a membership process and it was a membership process, not any other kind of process. And it's important that is followed through," Miliband said.

"I actually think that... there is more commitment now to the fact that we have to honour our side of the bargain... than there was six months ago," he said.

Turkey denies access to Greek Cypriots vessels on the ground that the EU has failed to keep promises to ease the international isolation of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots.

UN-brokered peace talks in Cyprus began in September 2008, but progress has been slow and the two sides remain deeply divided on key issues.

The Turkish Cypriots and Ankara worry the Greek Cypriots are deliberately protracting the talks and accuse them of impeding progress in Turkey's EU bid in order to extract concessions on the Cyprus conflict.

Davutoglu urged "for a completion of the talks as soon as possible."

He stressed that "any idea to protract the talks as a way of putting pressure on Turkey with respect to the ports is a delusion."

Turkey is bitter that the Greek Cypriots, whose government is the island's internationally recognised administration, were admitted into the EU in 2004 despite voting down a UN peace plan, while the Turkish Cypriots -- who gave the plan an overwhelmingly support -- were left out in the cold.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey occupied the north in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

The two ministers said they discussed also developments in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan.


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