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050803|MET|France, Greece pressure Turkey to accept Cyprus
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August 3, 2005 | Middle East Times | Nicosia (Cyprus)

France, Greece pressure Turkey to accept Cyprus before EU talks

France and Greece on Tuesday pressured Turkey to formally recognize Cyprus before the next phase of its negotiations to join the European Union.

With accession talks due to start on October 3, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said that Ankara had to recognize all 25 EU members, including the Republic of Cyprus, one of 10 new members that joined last year.

"It seems to me inconceivable that such a negotiation process can begin with a country which does not recognize every one of the members of the European Union, that is to say the 25," Prime Minister De Villepin told Europe One radio.

"There is a principle there that seems to me must be defended, and is one France will make clear to Turkey as well as to other European Union countries during the next meetings," he said.

Turkey refuses to recognize Cyprus' internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government and is the only country in the world that recognizes the Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island.

Ankara made the point last week with the signing of an agreement extending a Turkey-EU customs accord to the 10 new EU members, including Cyprus, a crucial EU requirement for the start of the October negotiations.

Ankara attached a declaration stressing that the protocol did not mean formal recognition of the Greek Cypriot government.

After the French PM's intervention a source close to Ankara stressed that the Turkish government would never agree to any demands to recognize Cyprus.

"Turkey will never accept the recognition of the Greek Cypriots administration as a precondition to be able to begin membership negotiations with the European Union on October 3," the source, who requested anonymity, said.

A spokesman for Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis announced that an historic visit by the PM to Ankara would be postponed partly because of Turkey's attitude toward Cyprus, while the Greek foreign ministry backed the French PM's demand.

"We have clearly said that the non-recognition of a member state of the European Union by another state that intends to join constitutes a contradiction, and a political and institutional paradox that is foreign to Europe," foreign ministry spokesman Georges Koumoutsakos said in a statement.

The Greek Cypriot government, which has the right to veto adhesion talks with Turkey, welcomed the French PM's statements as "especially positive".

"We've always said that it's absurd for a country wanting to join the European Union not to recognize one of its member states," spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides told reporters in Nicosia.

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