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Cyprus Row May Hinder EU-Turkey Talks


Finland said Monday that a final effort to avoid gridlock between the European Union and Turkey over Cyprus has failed. From Paris, Lisa Bryant reports for VOA that the standoff could affect Ankara's bid to join the 25-member bloc.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said an agreement could not be reached between Turkey and the European Union over EU demands that Ankara open its ports and airports to Cyprus. Finland is the current rotating president of the 25-member bloc, which Turkey wants to join.

The foreign ministers remarks follow discussions he held separately with his counterparts from Turkey and Cyprus, an EU member. Turkey's refusal to open its ports to Cyprus may prompt EU foreign ministers to suspend accession negotiations with Turkey - the first step toward EU membership - when they meet next week.

But Amanda Akjakoja, an expert at the European Policy Center in Brussels, says its not surprising that negotiations between the EU and Turkey have stalled.

"I'm not surprised that the negotiations haven't been as successful as some may have hoped them to be," she said. "Basically having followed Cyprus for more than 10 years, I know that to move anywhere is a very big struggle."

Moreover, Akjokja doubts the accession talks will be suspended indefinitely, but rather that they may simply slow down.

The standoff over Cyprus is only one of several EU concerns about Turkey's possible membership. Human rights is another - and some European governments are deeply skeptical of Turkey's joining the EU at all. Still, Akjokja believes perceptions can change.

"I think you have to put it into perspective," she said. "Turkey's accession is not foreseen for at least 20 years down the road, and also not all member states are opposed to Turkey's membership. Actually only a handful are opposed to it at the moment."

Twenty years is a long time, Akjakoja notes - plenty of time for the European public and governments to change their mind.