Brussels.- Turkey finally signed an accord Friday extending its customs union with the European Union to Cyprus and other new EU members — a key step toward opening membership talks with the bloc. The Turkish government said its signature was not recognition of the Cypriot government.
In a separate declaration, Turkey noted that the central obstacle to recognition — the three-decade division of Cyprus into a Greek Cypriot controlled south and a Turkish occupied north — did not exist when Turkey first signed its customs union with the EU some 40 years ago.
The Government of the Republic of Cyprus has expressed ”deep regret” over the issue by Turkey of a unilateral declaration on Cyprus, at the time of its signature of the adaptation protocol to the Ankara Agreement of 1963, extending its customs union with the EU to the ten new member states, including the Cyprus Republic.
Cyprus Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides in a written statement said the content of the Turkish declaration, stating that Ankara does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, would be examined thoroughly, in order to assess ”especially whether it puts into question the validity of the signature of the Protocol itself.”
The Government, he added, would then officially present its position to the Council of the European Union, ”which is expected to react accordingly, establishing, inter alia, whether the specific precondition set by the European Council in December 2004 for the opening of accession negotiations has been properly fulfilled.”
The spokesman said it was ”regrettable, nevertheless, that a candidate for accession declares that it does not recognise one of the member states of the Union it wishes to join.”
This institutional paradox, he underlined, cannot be sustained, especially in view of the expected opening of accession negotiations between Turkey and ”the Union of 25.”
Chrysostomides called on Turkey to abide by the principles upon which the EU is founded and to embark on a process of speedy normalization of its relations with the Republic of Cyprus, ”in line with the principle of equal treatment of all member states of the Union.”
Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman George Koumoutsakos says in a written statement that by signing the additional protocol extending its customs union to the ten new EU member states, ”Turkey has fulfilled the obligation it undertook last December towards the EU and each member separately, including the Republic of Cyprus, with whatever that entails.”
He notes however that ”with the unilateral declaration, which it unfortunately considered it should make, Turkey appears to insist on maintaining a political and legal bizarreness, it insists on not recognising an EU member state, at a time indeed when the opening of negotiations aiming at its accession to the Union is expected.”
”This bizarreness must cease. The sooner the better. The signing of the protocol must constitute a substantial step towards normalising the relations of Turkey with the Republic of Cyprus,” Koumoutsakos notes, adding that the Greek government is in constant contact and cooperation with the Cypriot government.
Concluding, Koumoutsakos says the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs is examining the Turkish declaration with the utmost caution and that the Greek position will be expressed in the context of the EU Permanent Representatives meeting to take place towards the end of August, which will discuss the matter and take decisions.
Turkey has declared that the signing, ratification and implementation of the protocol extending its customs union with the EU to the ten new member states, including the Republic of Cyprus, ”neither amount to any form of recognition of the Republic of Cyprus referred to in the protocol nor prejudice Turkey’s rights and obligations emanating from the Treaty of Guarantee, the Treaty of Alliance, and the Treaty of Establishment of 1960.”
”The Republic of Cyprus referred to in the protocol is not the original partnership state established in 1960,” it adds, noting that Turkey ”will thus continue to regard the Greek Cypriot authorities as exercising authority, control and jurisdiction only in the territory south of the buffer zone, as is currently the case, and as not representing the Turkish Cypriot people and will treat the acts performed by them accordingly.”
In its declaration, Turkey notes that it ”remains committed to finding a political settlement of the Cyprus issue and has clearly demonstrated its resolve in this regard.”
”Accordingly, Turkey will continue to support the efforts of the UN Secretary General towards achieving a comprehensive settlement, which will lead to the establishment of a new bizonal partnership state. A just and lasting settlement would greatly contribute to peace, stability and harmonious relations in the region,” it adds.
Furthermore, Turkey ”reaffirms that its existing relationship” with the regime in the Turkish occupied areas of the Republic ”remains unchanged by becoming a party to the protocol.”
”Pending a comprehensive settlement, the position of Turkey on Cyprus will remain unchanged. Turkey expresses its readiness to establish relations with the new partnership state, which will emerge following a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus,” it concludes.
Ankara’s declaration, dated July 29, 2005, is signed by Permanent Delegate of Turkey to the EU, Ambassador Ogur Demiralp.
The British presidency of the EU has issued a statement welcoming the signature of ”the Ankara Agreement Protocol in accordance with the conclusions of the European Council of December 2004,” thus extending its customs union to the ten new EU member states, including the Republic of Cyprus.
If also notes that ”Turkey has issued a declaration reaffirming, for its part, its long-standing policy on Cyprus.”
”The presidency recalls that the government of the Republic of Cyprus signed the Accession Treaty on 16 April 2003 and the Republic of Cyprus became a member state of the EU on 1 May 2004, and that the established position of the EU is that it recognises the Republic of Cyprus, only, as a subject of international law,” it adds.
Furthermore, the British presidency ”welcomes Turkey’s continuing commitment, in its declaration, to support the efforts of the UN Secretary General to bring about a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.”
”The presidency agrees that a just and lasting settlement, in line with the principles on which the Union is founded, will contribute to peace, stability and harmonious relations in the region,” the statement says.
Concluding, it notes that ”the Council of the EU will examine the terms of the Turkish declaration in due course with a view to agreeing any further EU response.”