Ankara to the EU: "It's time to present a 'progress report' to Greek Cyprus"
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday voiced disappointment over the handling of the Cyprus issue in the new European Commission progress report on Turkey, while expressing satisfaction with the report overall. "We've always placed great importance on progress reports, as they are an evaluation of developments in Turkey through the eyes of Brussels, much like a snapshot," Davutoglu told reporters at a press conference in Rome, where he participated in the seventh Italian-Turkish Dialogue Forum. The report calls recent constitutional amendments "very positive," Davutoglu said. "It says that reforms have continued and that more reforms are needed; that's right, we never said we're done with making reforms," he added, also stressing that the EU's evaluation of Turkey's foreign policy should be a rebuke to claims of an "axis shift" in Turkey's foreign policy. The European Commission "objectively" interpreted that Turkey's foreign policy is a source of stability for its neighborhood and that the country's eventual EU accession will bring the Union more stability as well, he said. "But I was disappointed because it's not fair on Cyprus," he added. "Both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have taken an extremely flexible and determined policy. Turkey has always done its part." Special UN Envoy to Cyprus Alexander Downer himself has praised Turkey's constructive approach towards the UN-led process, Davutoglu said, adding, "It's time (for the EU) to present a similar 'progress report' to the Greek Cypriot administration of southern Cyprus." Though Greek Cyprus is already a member of the EU, he said, "It's still time to give the Greek Cypriot administration a list of expectations and demands. Otherwise we will view such statements (within the report) as one-sided." The progress report repeated criticism of Turkey's refusal to open its ports to Greek Cyprus. "Turkey continued to express public support for the negotiations between the leaders of the two communities under the good offices of the UN secretary-general," said the report. "As emphasized by the negotiating framework and (EU) Council declarations, Turkey is expected to actively support the negotiations aimed at a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the principles on which the EU is founded." In a statement released hours after the progress report, the Foreign Ministry welcomed the EU Commission's praise of Turkey's political reforms, but lamented the lack of progress on Cyprus despite efforts to that end. "This situation is caused neither by Turkey nor the Turkish Cypriot side," said the ministry, calling it "odd" that Turkey is still expected to offer active support for a resolution. The statement urged the EU to keep its promises to end restrictions on trade with the Turkish Cypriots if it wants to open the way for progress. The EU proposed direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots as a reward for their vote in support of a 2004 UN reunification plan, but the plan collapsed under Greek Cypriot opposition. Despite their vote against the reunification of the island, the Greek Cypriots joined the EU a few days after the referendum as representatives of the entire island. They now have the right to veto progress in Turkey's accession talks and block implementation of the EU's promise to allow direct trade. Turkey says it will not open its ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus unless the EU keeps its promise on trade with Turkish Cyprus. The ministry also said the government is committed to further political reforms, saying the constitutional reforms approved in a Sept. 12 referendum show the government's continuing resolve to advance Turkey's EU bid. "We are pleased that developments that have taken place in the past year in relation to the fulfillment of the political criteria (for accession) were noted in such a way in the progress report," the statement said. The ministry also welcomed the Commission's praise for Turkey's growing foreign policy activism. "We note with contentment that Turkey's active foreign policy is considered an asset for the EU," it said.