“We are saddened by the statements of the French prime minister and of President Chirac.” That was the first reaction by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after his French counterpart said it was “inconceivable” Turkey start European Union entry talks in October without having recognised Cyprus, one of the 25 member states. President Jacques Chirac reportedly told ministers he agreed with the comments by his prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, who stopped short of saying France would use its veto. Ankara recognises only a breakaway Turkish Cypriot enclave in the north of Cyprus, where Turkish troops have been based since the 1974 invasion after a brief Greek Cypriot coup. Last year Turkey backed a United Nations-brokered peace deal to end the dispute. It was later endorsed by Turkish Cypriots in a referendum and rejected by Greek Cypriots. In December, Brussels set October 3 as the start date for entry talks, and last week Turkey cleared the final hurdle by extending its customs union to all new EU members.At the same time, however, it specifically stated that its stance over Cyprus had not changed. The talks are expected to last many years with Turkey joining in 2015 at the earliest. Meanwhile the European Commission says it has complained to Turkey about legislation on religious foundations that allegedly fails to guarantee freedoms for non-Muslims.
Erdogan "saddened" by French demands for Cyprus recognition