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EU Faces Showdown with Turkey Over Cyprus

  • Michael Drudge

European Union foreign ministers are putting pressure on Turkey to recognize Cyprus if Ankara expects to ever join the 25-nation bloc. The ministers are meeting in Newport, Wales.

Turkey is to begin negotiations on October 3 that could eventually lead to EU membership for the predominately Muslim nation of 70 million people.

But Ankara's refusal to recognize the government of Cyprus - an EU member - has cast a shadow over the process. Further complicating matters are recent referendums in France and the Netherlands, in which voters rejected an EU constitution, partly out of concern about Turkey joining the Union.

Officials from Britain, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, call the dispute with Turkey a difficult and divisive issue.

One suggestion is to offer Turkey something less than full EU membership, a proposal tacitly backed by Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik.

"We do not want to close doors to Turkey, quite the contrary," she said. "But we think we should be more realistic in working towards this goal. And we should also specifically mention an alternative."

However, Turkey rejects anything but full EU membership. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul says the idea of a so-called privileged partnership with the EU is "illegitimate and immoral."

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 in response to an attempted coup by pro-Greek supporters. Turkish troops still occupy the northern third of the Mediterranean island.

Cyprus joined the EU last year along with nine other countries, mostly from the former Communist bloc.

The EU ministers in Wales are also considering the standoff with Iran over its nuclear program. EU diplomats say Iran could soon be referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions unless the dispute is resolved quickly.

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