Turkish relations with the European Union “will freeze” if Cyprus takes over the EU presidency in July 2012 without a solution to the divided island, Turkey’s foreign minister said Wednesday.
Ahmet Davutoglu made his comments as the European Union’s enlargement chief said in a visit to Ankara that he wanted to see “a new momentum” in Turkey’s membership process now that Turkish parliamentary elections were over. Muslim Turkey started accession talks in 2005 but progress has been slow, largely because of a conflict with Cyprus over a breakaway state on the island recognised only by Turkey.
UN-sponsored peace talks between the two communities have stumbled since they were relaunched in 2008. “If the Greek Cypriot side stalls negotiations and takes over the presidency of the European Union in July 2012, this means not only a deadlock on the island, but also a blockage, a freezing point in Turkey-European Union relations,” Davutoglu told a news conference.
Cyprus was divided by a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Its Greek Cypriots represent the island internationally and in the European Union, while Turkey is the only country to recognize the Turkish Cypriot state.
The Cyprus dispute is a major obstacle for Turkey’s EU bid, aside from opposition from EU heavyweights France and Germany. Greek Cypriots say Turkey cannot join the bloc until the Cyprus conflict is resolved. “We should take measures now to prevent this blockage,” Davutoglu said, adding that such measures should be taken before the end of this year.
The EU says Ankara must meet its pledge to open up to traffic from the Greek Cypriot part of the divided island as part of a 2005 agreement known as the Ankara protocol; Turkey says the EU should end its blockade of the Turkish Cypriot enclave. “We want to see a new momentum in Turkey’s EU membership process now that the Turkish elections are over,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele told a news conference with Turkey’s EU Minister Egemen Bagis.
During a visit to the Turkish Cypriot enclave in the north of the island over the weekend, Davutoglu said Turkey hoped terms for the reunification of Cyprus could be agreed by the end of the year so that a referendum could take place in early 2012. Any agreement the two sides reach must go to a plebiscite. In a referendum in 2004 Turkish Cypriots voted for reunification, but Greek Cypriots rejected it.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government won a confidence vote on Wednesday to push ahead with plans for a new constitution, but a parliament boycott by Kurdish lawmakers has soured his calls for cross-party consensus.
Erdogan’s AK Party won a third consecutive term in a June 12 election with 50 percent of the vote, short of the two-thirds majority he needed to change the constitution at will. He has since pledged to work with the opposition to draft a new charter to replace one drafted after a military coup in 1980.
The issue of greater rights for Turkey’s minority Kurds is likely to dominate the debate on a new constitution, but deputies from the main pro-Kurdish party have boycotted parliament in protest at court rulings that barred some of its jailed elected candidates from taking their seats.
Analysts say drafting a new charter without input from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the largest party representing the Kurds, would undermine efforts to end a 27-year conflict with Kurdish rebels that has cost more than 40,000 lives.
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