As the Cyprus question returns to the international stage, EuroNews caught up with Turkey’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gül.
We asked him about Ankara’s latest proposals to reunite the island. In 2004, Greek Cypriots joined the European Union, shortly after rejecting a United
Nations peace plan.
During the interview, Mr Gül was also asked about Turkey’s position on the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915-1917, and Ankara’s handling of the Bird Flu crisis.
But first, how to reunite a divided island.
Your latest proposal to open Turkey’s ports and airports to Greek Cyprus against lifting restrictions on the ports and airports of Turkish Cyprus,
apparently did not impress the Greek Cypriots. Are you not asking for the de-facto political recognition of Turkish Cyprus?
There was a good opportunity for political recognition last year, it was the Annan Plan. For us it was a comprehensive political solution but unfortunately that great opportunity was missed beacause of the rejection by the Greek Cypriot side, so the problem goes on. And the European Union and everybody knows that political recognition will be part of a comprehensive solution. We are offering to open our sea port and airports and also to remove all kinds of restrictions. In return we wish to see the Greek Cypriot side also end the economic embargo imposed on the Turkish side.
Does Ankara feel the Turkish military presence in Northern Cyprus is still justified and if so why? And under which conditions would Ankara consider the
withdrawal of troops?
Last year when the Greek Cypriot side rejected the Annan Plan, they stopped the withdrawal of Turkish forces. They are the guarantors of the Turks over
there and there is an agreement for that, an international guarantors’ agreement. But unfortunately, by rejecting the Annan Plan, last year, the Greek Cypriot side block withdrawal. It’s not our fault.
Are you disappointed with the EU’s attitude towards the Cyprus issue? What more are you expecting?
If you remember, before the referendum, the voice of the European Union was cut off. The EU promised Turkish people “If you support this we will end economic isolation”. The Turkish people supported the Annan plan but still they have been punished because the economic embargoes are on-going. The EU has not fulfilled its promises although the Commission prepared two regulations. But unfortunately the Greek side is blocking that. This is against the interest of the EU also.
The charges against the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk for talking about the killings of Armenians in Turkey were dropped. Is it likely that the Turkish
goverment will shift its position concerning the Armenian debate?
Expression of opinion is free in Turkey, there is no punishement for that. And don’t forget that we have started the accession negociation, so the Copenhagen political criteria was the condition to upgrade our democratic standards. We changed our constitution, we changed so many laws in Turkey and Turkey has the same standards as EU Countries.
But is it likely that Ankara will change its position in the Armenian debate?
Well, our Prime Minister sent a letter to the President of Armenia, we hope that this letter, and offering of a proposal is received very well.
Many people are concerned about the Bird Flu crisis. The World Health Organisation is worried that the crisis will get more and more serious in
Turkey. So can Turkey handle the situation alone? And are you worried that things may get out of hand?
We shared all the documents, all the facts, all the files with the international organisations and companies. This means that we did not hide
anything. But infortunately it is not only in Turkey, it is almost everywhere and other countries are not reporting and not sharing. We acted on time, it is
under control now, thankfully it has not spread all over the country.
Minister Gül, thank you very much.