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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 21:34 GMT
Turkey 'will open up to Cyprus'
The port of Famagusta in northern Cyprus
Turkey wants the embargo on northern Cypriot ports ended
The EU is studying an offer by Turkey to open one port and one airport to traffic from Cyprus, Finland says.

It said the move was "an important step" towards ending the deadlock over Turkey's membership bid, but some officials indicated it was not enough.

Following confusion about the nature of the offer, it has emerged that the proposal Ankara has outlined has concrete expectations attached.

EU foreign ministers are to discuss Turkey's troubled EU bid on Monday.

Then the EU heads of government will have to decide at a summit on 14-15 December.

Until now, Turkey has always insisted that the EU must first end the economic isolation of Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus.

The UK government, long an enthusiast for Turkish membership of the EU, described Turkey's new offer as significant and creative.

Last week, the European Commission recommended freezing eight of the 35 chapters in Turkey's EU accession negotiations, because of a failure to make headway over Cyprus.

'Two-way deal'

Finland, the current EU president, said Turkey made the new approach on Wednesday.

Cyprus map

EU diplomats have been discussing the offer, amid initial confusion about whether it was unconditional.

Finland's foreign minister gave it a guarded welcome, but suggested it was inadequate.

"This is not a solution," Erkki Tuomioja said.

"We are taking note of an opening from the Turkish side which is a positive indication."

Turkish officials have since said the proposal they have outlined does have concrete expectations attached.

Ankara wants the EU to allow a port and an airport in the Turkish Cypriot north of the island to be opened to international trade.

Turkey has been urging the EU to end the isolation of northern Cyprus by allowing trade through Ercan airport and the port of Famagusta.

A Turkish foreign ministry source was quoted by Reuters as saying: "This is a two-way deal. We would require the same number of airports and ports to be opened on each side."

Cyprus will not agree to Ercan airport being opened to international flights as part of a compromise deal, Cypriot government spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis told Reuters on Thursday.

Currently the only flights to northern Cyprus are routed via Turkey.

'Positive influence'

Finland, during its EU presidency, has been trying to break the deadlock over Cyprus, in order to keep Turkey's talks on track.

It has proposed that the first step towards Turkish recognition of Cyprus should be the opening of Turkish ports to Cypriot traffic, with the EU simultaneously allowing trade through northern Cyprus.

A European Commission spokeswoman said on Thursday it "considers that the Turkish initiative, if confirmed, is an important step towards the full implementation of the Ankara protocol". The protocol covers trade between Turkey and the EU's new members, including Cyprus.

"This should have a positive influence on the discussion concerning the management of the continuation of the accession negotiation with Turkey."

Details of what Turkey is offering

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