NICOSIA (AFP)–The Cypriot government said it regretted Turkey’s declaration that its signing of a key document on the path to European Union membership does not signify official recognition of the Cyprus republic.
"The Republic of Cyprus expresses its deep regret that Turkey considers it necessary to make a unilateral statement on Cyprus at the time of signing the protocol," said government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides on July 30. "It is regrettable that a candidate for accession declares that it does not recognize one of the member states of the Union it wishes to join," he added.
Greece also expressed disappointment at Turkey’s declaration–and continuous refusal to acknowledge Cyprus as a state. A Greek foreign ministry statement called Ankara’s declaration "unilateral," adding that Turkey "insists on the continuation of a political and legal paradox."
On July 29–Turkey agreed to extend an existing customs accord with the EU to include the bloc’s 10 newest member states including Cyprus–whose internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government Ankara refuses to endorse.
The signing of the document was a key precondition set by Brussels for the start of accession talks between Ankara and the EU–set for October 3.
Turkey–which invaded and occupied northern Cyprus in 1974–attached a declaration to the document stating that its signature did not amount to recognition.
"The signing–ratification–and implementation of this protocol in no way means recognition of the Republic of Cyprus–which the protocol refers to," a Turkish foreign ministry stated.
"Turkey will continue to regard the Greek Cypriot authorities as exercising authority–control–and jurisdiction only in the territory south of the buffer zone [in Cyprus]… and as not representing the Turkish Cypriot people and will treat the acts performed by them accordingly," the declaration said.
The Cyprus government spokesman’said Turkey could not sustain this position against Cyprus because Ankara’s EU accession negotiations would involve all 25 states in the bloc.
"We urge Turkey to abide by the EU’s founding principles of equal treatment for all states and embark on a process of speedy normalization with the Republic of Cyprus," he said.
However–Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Ankara had kept its end of the bargain and expected membership talks to begin on schedule.
"Turkey fulfilled its commitmen’s. There are no longer any obstacles ahead of the launch of EU accession negotiations on October 3," Gul told NTV news channel.
Cyprus plans to study the document closely to see if the declaration makes the signing of the protocol itself invalid under the preconditions set by Brussels for Turkey’s EU accession negotiations to begin.
Turkey is the only country to recognize the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) proclaimed in 1983 in the Turkish-occupied northern third of the Mediterranean island.
TRNC leader Mehmet Ali Talat said July 30 that Ankara’s qualified signature of the agreement would bring about "many changes" and "various crises," but could eventually be beneficial.
"The result of these crises will be that the resolution of the Cypriot question is established to be imperative and cannot be delayed," he told Turkey’s Anatolia news agency.
He included that the Turkish Cypriots could use the accord to formulate new deman’s for a settlement.
The last international effort to end the division of Cyprus failed in April 2004 when the Greek Cypriots voted down a UN reunification plan even though the Turkish Cypriots gave it overwhelming support.
The outcome ensured that the Greek Cypriots alone joined the EU in May last year–leaving the breakaway Turkish Cypriots out in the cold. EU efforts to assist them economically and ease trade restrictions as a reward for their vote have been blocked by the Greek Cypriots.
Turkey is eager for the peace talks to resume–wary that the Greek Cypriots could use their EU membership as leverage to block Ankara’s own accession aspirations.
Gul tried to minimize any concern about a possible veto by Nicosia–highlighting that EU leaders–including President Tassos Papadopoulos–had agreed to open talks with Ankara last December.