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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 November 2006, 13:52 GMT
EU abandons Turkey-Cyprus talks
By Oana Lungescu
BBC News, Brussels

Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan
The EU wants Turkey to open its ports to Cypriot traffic
The European Union has dropped plans to hold a last-ditch meeting with Turkish and Cypriot officials, to be hosted by Finland in Helsinki at the weekend.

Finland said it was unable to get all sides around the table - but that it would keep trying for a breakthrough.

The meeting was meant to avert a crisis in Turkey's bid for EU membership.

The European Commission publishes a report next week that is expected to criticise Turkey for not opening its ports to traffic from Cyprus.

Cyprus is a member of the EU, but Turkey does not recognise it.

The island was divided in 1974, when Turkey invaded the north after a coup backed by supporters of a union with Greece.

Crisis looming

That the Finns could not get everybody together is not a good sign.

Finland was hoping to make progress on a plan under which Turkey would open some ports to ships from Cyprus, while the EU would ease the economic isolation of Turkish Cypriots.

But according to diplomats, Turkey refused to attend the talks, arguing that Greece should also be involved in any discussions concerning Cyprus.

Turkey's membership talks finally began last October. But the mood has been souring ever since

Contacts will now continue at the level of officials, and the Finnish foreign minister will meet the Turkish Cypriot leader in Brussels on Friday.

But few expect a breakthrough by Wednesday, when the European Commission is due to issue a critical report on Turkey's progress, not just in its dealings with Cyprus, but also as regards political reforms and freedom of speech.

Brussels has repeatedly warned the government in Ankara that failure to keep its promises could derail its membership bid.

Next week's report is not expected to make any recommendation on the suspension of talks, which began only a year ago.

But EU leaders may have to take that difficult decision when they meet in Brussels in December and face a serious crisis in relations with Turkey.


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