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17 January, 2002
The European Union's enlargement commissioner, Guenter Verheugen, has noted Turkey's obligation to contribute constructively to the effort for a settlement of the Cyprus question so that Cyprus can join the EU with the political problem solved. However, he stressed that Cyprus' EU accession was "unavoidable" regardless of the outcome of the negotiations.
In interviews published in the dailies SDZ and FR on Wednesday, Verheugen at the same time dismissed the logic of bartering with Turkey in reference to its own EU prospects in return for a constructive stance by Ankara on the Cyprus issue.
The German commissioner's interviews can be assessed as a political message to Ankara, not only because they coincide with the start of the face-to-face direct peace talks between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in Nicosia on Wednesday and Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's visit to the United States.
"For me it is clear that the first round of (EU) enlargement is not politically feasible without the participation of Cyprus," Verheugen told SDZ, making it clear to mean that otherwise, the Greek government is prepared to totally block EU enlargement in general.
The commissioner termed the Clerides-Denktash direct talks as "a success for Europe" and "fruit of the strategy" of the EU Helsinki summit. He said the "countdown" for Cyprus' accession to the EU has started and that the relevant decision will be taken by the end of the year. Verheugen added that Denktash's change in stance constituted confirmation of the EU's correct policy to help solve the political problem through the advancement of Cyprus' EU accession course.
"A year ago Denktash had withdrawn from all the talks, thus placing himself in an adverse position and now he is correcting this mistake," Verheugen said, expressing "reserved optimism".
"The people in northern Cyprus understood that the political solution of the problem is the only road which leads towards Europe. At the same time the Turkish government in Ankara became aware that Turkey would jeopardize the great progress which it has made in the direction of its European prospects, in the event that it took the risk to oppose the EU on the Cyprus issue," Verheugen said.
The commissioner reiterated that Turkey does not possess any form of "veto" with regards to Cyprus' EU accession, even in the event that the new effort for a settlement of the political problem fails.
In both interviews, Verheugen said that in any case Turkey was obliged to constructively contribute towards a settlement of the Cyprus problem without this constituting an object of "bargaining" for the fulfillment of the necessary criteria on its part and the speeding up of its own accession course.
Source: Athens News Agency