Cyprus Says Turk Cypriots Trying to Blackmail EU

November 26, 2000 - 0:0
NICOSIA Cyprus on Saturday accused rival Turkish Cypriots of trying to blackmail the European Union by warning they would pull out of UN-sponsored reunification talks.
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash signaled on Friday that he would withdraw from the slow-moving process expected to continue in January, describing the talks as a "waste of time".
The United Nations said they had no confirmation that Denktash was pulling out.
The Greek Cypriots said they suspected the move was timed to get the European Union to back off from its demand that Turkey cooperate over solving the Cyprus issue before formal talks on its accession to the EU.
A spokesman for the Greek Cypriot-led government said he regretted Denktash's warning, which could torpedo a process some diplomats have described as the most promising since the island was divided a quarter of a century ago.
"The aim of Mr. Denktash is to blackmail developments (at the UN) and affect the consultations of the Europeans for the Turkey-European Union Partnership Accord," spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said.
Turkish Anger Over Cyprus Link Inclusion of the Cyprus issue in the Accession Partnership Accord, which lists reforms wanted by the EU from Turkey before it can embark on membership talks, has sparked anger in Ankara.
In a clear show of defiance to the EU, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said after talks with Denktash on Friday that Turkey supported the decision not to attend further talks.
Cyprus is a front-runner for EU membership in the next wave of enlargement.
The accord was supposed to be ratified at a meeting of the EU's foreign ministers last week, but was put off until December 4, three days before the EU summit in Nice.
The EU made no firm link to Cyprus when declaring Turkey a candidate in Helsinki a year ago. It had confined the issue to a general preamble until the day the accord was presented earlier this month.
Diplomats say that EU member Greece was instrumental in having the issue made one of Turkey's short-term obligations, giving it more prominence.
"The United Nations and the European Union now have a great responsibility not to give in to this blackmail," Papapetrou said.
Denktash heads the breakaway Republic of Northern Cyprus recognized only by Ankara, which supports the territory economically and militarily.
The proximity talks process is the latest negotiation tactic devised by the international community to reunite the island, divided since Turkey invaded its north in 1974 after a brief Greek Cypriot coup.
Five rounds of proximity talks have taken place over the past year and a sixth is scheduled for late January.
"We sincerely hope that Mr. Denktash will attend," a UN spokeswoman in Nicosia told Reuters. (Reuter)