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French Version

France seeks to avoid crisis over Turkey-Cyprus issue

France wants to avoid a new crisis over Turkey's stance on Cyprus ahead of Ankara's accession talks with the European Union, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said.

France "does not want to open a new crisis in Europe" but as an EU member it "is within its rights in asking Turkey to clarify its position" on Cyprus, Douste-Blazy told an annual meeting of French ambassadors in Paris.

The EU has recognized only the Greek Cypriot government of the divided island of Cyprus, while Turkey has long supported the breakaway Turkish Cypriot northern region. Turkey last month signed a trade accord with Cyprus, one of the major conditions set by the EU before the opening of accession talks on October 3. But Ankara added a declaration stating that this move did not imply diplomatic recognition of the Greek Cypriot state.

"It is not really envisageable that a country which is asking to enter the community refuses to recognize one of its members," Douste-Blazy said.

"It is a legitimate demand. It is made out of concern, because France does not want to start a new crisis in Europe," he added.

Turkey was high on the agenda of the ambassadors' meeting, whose theme this year was the implications of the May 29 referendum in which French voters rejected the proposed EU constitution treaty.

Opposition by some French parties to Turkey joining the EU was used as an argument during the campaign for the constitution referendum, although the issue was unconnected with the treaty itself.

French President Jacques Chirac has promised to put the issue of Turkish membership to a referendum.

However, the European Commission Monday repeated its position that Turkey did not have to recognize Cyprus in order for EU accession talks to begin. The talks are due to start on October 3.

Marseille,09 05 2005
The Daily Star
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