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Last Updated: Monday, 12 June 2006, 08:59 GMT 09:59 UK
Cyprus row hits EU-Turkey talks
Flags of the EU and Turkey
Some EU leaders are lukewarm about Turkey's bid
Disagreements between Cyprus and Turkey are threatening to halt Turkey's EU accession talks at the first hurdle.

EU foreign ministers are meeting in Luxembourg to sign a deal on the first of 35 policy "chapters" Turkey must conclude before it joins.

But Cyprus insists that ministers must press Turkey to recognise the Cypriot state and keep a promise to open its ports to Cypriot ships.

Turkey says it will boycott the talks if Cyprus does not back down.

"I will not go and wait in the airport," Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said when asked if an EU political hurdle might affect his participation in the meeting.

His Cypriot counterpart George Iacovou said "no progress has been made towards our views so therefore it is touch and go".

The first EU policy chapter - science and technology - is usually held to be uncontroversial.

Mr Iacovou held talks with Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik ahead of the meeting, in an effort to agree on a text. Austria currently holds the European Union presidency.

Divided island

The EU agreed last October to launch talks on Turkey's membership bid - but the deal followed more than 24 hours of intense negotiations among EU members.

Cyprus joined the EU in May 2004, despite the fact that it has been divided since 1974.

The split came when Turkey occupied the northern third of the island, following an abortive Greek Cypriot coup backed by the military junta ruling Greece at the time.

Turkey says recognition of Cyprus is linked to a UN-sponsored peace plan to reunite the island, which Turkish Cypriots accepted but Greek Cypriots rejected in 2004.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Luxembourg says everyone knew that Turkish membership negotiations would be difficult - but no-one thought they would be so tough so soon.

Turkey feels more and more that many in the European Union are not serious about its membership bid, he says.

The EU has prepared a report critical of Turkey's reform process. That will be poorly received by the Turkish government, our correspondent adds.

In other business the ministers are expected to:

  • Give the green light to recognition of Montenegro as in independent state

  • Conclude talks on the first policy "chapter" - science and technology - with Croatia, which like Turkey is seeking EU membership

  • Sign an agreement on closer trade and political ties with Albania - a Stabilisation and Association Agreement, often seen as the first step towards eventual EU membership.

Cyprus is making political demands


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