ANKARA (AFP)–Cyprus will back the opening of European Union accession talks with Turkey if Ankara makes several gestures to the Greek Cypriot government which it does not recognize–Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou said in a newspaper interview on Sunday.
Iacovou said his government would not block Turkey’s bid when EU leaders take up the issue in December if Ankara agrees to allow Greek Cypriot ships and planes to use Turkish sea ports and air corridors and acknowledges Cyprus as an equal EU member.
"The Cyprus republic does not wish to use its veto right," the minister told the popular Turkish daily Sabah.
"But in order to escape such an unpleasant situation–Turkey should fulfill the responsibilities I mentioned or at least make a binding statement that it will do so by the time accession talks start–if it fails to fulfill them by December," he said.
The leaders of the 25 EU nations will decide on December 17 whether to start membership talks with Turkey–an official candidate since 1999.
The European Commission–the EU executive arm–said earlier this month that the Muslim nation had fulfilled the required democracy norms and recommended the inauguration of talks.
The hostilities between Ankara and Nicosia stem from the three-decade division of Cyprus between its Turkish and Greek communities.
Turkey has maintained thousands of troops in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island since 1974 when it invaded the enclave with the stated aim of protecting its kinsmen against a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece.
An international initiative to end the conflict failed in April when the Greek Cypriots voted down a UN reunification plan–while the Turkish Cypriots–long seen as an obstacle to any settlement–overwhelmingly endorsed it.
The outcome ensured that the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot south joined the EU on May 1–leaving the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north out in the cold.
Ankara has rebuffed calls to recognize the Greek Cypriot government–arguing that it bears the responsibility for the failure of the UN peace plan.