Turkey signs but will not recognise Cyprus


CYPRUS: Cyprus has expressed deep regret over Ankara's refusal to recognise the republic when signing the protocol extending Turkey's European Union customs union to its 10 new members. The start of accession talks in October was conditional on Turkey's signature.

Turkey signed the protocol on Friday but said this did not "amount to any form of recognition of the Republic of Cyprus".

Turkey also said it would continue to maintain close ties to the Turkish Cypriot entity in the north, recognised only by Ankara. The EU considers the Cypriot government as the only legal authority on the island.

Cyprus government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said Turkey's declaration "puts into question the validity of the signature of the protocol itself".

He observed that the EU council must now decide whether Turkey had fulfilled the precondition set for the opening of negotiations. He said it was "regrettable . . . that a candidate for accession declares that it does not recognise one of the member states of the Union it wishes to join".

Cyprus has repeatedly warned it could veto negotiations with Turkey if it does not change its policy.

The EU presidency now held by Britain, a close ally of Ankara, welcomed Turkey's signature.

During a meeting with Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week, British prime minister Tony Blair reiterated his stand that Turkey's signature on the protocol would not constitute recognition of the Cyprus republic. Britain takes the view that Turkey's declaration simply reiterates its "long-standing policy on Cyprus".

Greece has criticised Turkey for maintaining "political and legal bizarreness" at a time Ankara seeks to begin accession talks. "This bizarreness must cease, the sooner the better. The signing of the protocol must constitute a substantial step toward normalising the relations of Turkey with the Republic of Cyprus."