The prime ministers of Turkey and Britain have held talks in London, with Ankara’s hopes of joining the European Union high on the agenda. Tony Blair, who currently holds the rotating EU presidency, is in charge of starting discussions – expected to begin on October 3. He said: “The prospect of Turkey’s membership – although obviously at some time in the future – will be important for Europe and its security.” Today’s meeting is aimed at clearing up the sensitive issue of extending Turkey’s customs agreement with the EU to its 10 new members, including Cyprus. Ankara is adamant the signing of the protocol does not mean de facto recognition.
It is thought Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will submit a separate document stating this. Turkey recognises only the breakaway Cypriot enclave in the north. The president of Cyprus has said it would be unthinkable for Turkey to sign the EU protocol that opens the way to membership talks, without recognising his government. However acknowledgement of Cyprus is not a pre-requisite for starting accession talks.