Turkey offers conditional opening of ports to Greek Cyprus

Iran Materials 7 December 2006 17:57 (UTC +04:00)

(Cihan) - Turkey has informed the European Union that it could open a harbor and an airport to Greek Cypriot traffic in return for opening of a port and an airport in Turkish Cyprus.

"I can confirm they sent a message to the Foreign Ministry to say they are opening one port and one airport," Mikko Norros, a spokesman for Finnish Presidency, Reuters reported earlier on Thursday, reports Trend.

According to the proposal, Turkey will open a port and an airport to traffic from EU member Greek Cyprus in return for the opening of Turkish Cypriot Airport of Ercan, located near the divided capital Lefkosa (Nicosia) and the port of Famagusta, on the north of the divided island, to international traffic.

Turkish Foreign Ministry sources state that the proposal does not include the unilateral opening of ports.

This recent initiative is seen as a move to meet Turkey's obligations to the European Union as part of membership talks, following a recommendation of partial freeze of Turkey's accession talks.

On Nov. 29, the European Commission announced that it recommended the suspension of negotiations on eight of the 35 chapters due to Turkey's failure to open its ports to traffic from Greek Cyprus.

"This is a goodwill gesture aimed at strengthening Turkey's hand and the hand of those EU members who are against a partial suspension of talks," Cengiz Aktar, a columnist and well know EU analyst, said on private NTV television.

The leaders of 25 EU member states will decide whether to adopt the recommendation at a summit to be held in Brussels on December 14-15.

Despite huge pressure from the EU, Ankara still refuses to open its ports to Greek Cypriot traffic although it signed in July 2005 an additional protocol, which extends the customs union agreement between Turkey and EU to the 10 new EU members including Greek Cyprus.

Turkish government says it will open its ports to Greek Cyprus, which it does not officially recognize, only after economic sanctions imposed on Turkish Cyprus are lifted.

The eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been split into ethnic lines since 1974 when Turkey took control of the northern part of the island in response to a Greece-backed coup which aimed to unite the island with Greece.