Middle East

Turkey says won't recognize Cyprus as EU president

(From-L)Turkey's Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bagis, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele give a press conference after the third Turkey-EU Ministerial Political Dialogue Meeting on June 7, 2012 in Istanbul. (AFP PHOTO / BULENT KILIC)

ISTANBUL: Turkey will not attend any event Cyprus presides over when the divided nation assumes the European Union presidency in July, Turkey's foreign minister said Thursday, although it will continue to collaborate with the EU.

Turkey does not recognize Cyprus as a sovereign nation and opposed it taking over the EU presidency until a solution to the dispute is found.

The island was split into an internationally recognized Greek-speaking south and a breakaway Turkish-speaking north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of a union with Greece. Only the Greek section is part of the EU.

"EU-Turkey relations and the political contacts we are currently establishing will continue as they are," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a joint news conference with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule. "Yet no ministry or organization of the Turkish Republic will take part in any activity that will be presided by Southern Cyprus."

Eight policy issues have been frozen by the bloc over Turkey's refusal to allow ships and planes from Cyprus enter its ports and airspace.

Turkey, however, is showing renewed interest in reviving its stalled bid to join the European Union, now that one of its key opponents - Nicolas Sarkozy- is no longer the president of France.

Turkey began its EU accession negotiations in 2005 but made little progress in its candidacy, thanks to its dispute with Cyprus and opposition from Sarkozy to Turkey's membership. Sarkozy argued that the predominantly Muslim country is not a part of Europe and wanted Turkey to accept some kind of a special partnership with the EU instead of full membership - an offer Turkey rejected.

Now that Socialist Francois Hollande has replaced the conservative Sarkozy as France's president, Turkey hopes France will be more sympathetic to the candidacy of a country that has one of the world's fastest growing economies and is becoming a regional diplomatic player.

"Turkey will determinedly progress in its course toward the EU," Egemen Bagis, the Turkish minister in charge of EU affairs, said Thursday.

Ashton, meanwhile, thanked Turkey for sheltering nearly 27,000 Syrian refugees who fled violence in neighboring Syria where forces loyal to President Bashar Assad are waging a crackdown on an uprising.

"First of all - our thought everyday with the people of Syria," Ashton said. "We are horrified by the violence and determined to work together in support of solutions."





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