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Cyprus PIO: Turkish Cypriot and Turkish Media Review, 12-02-22

Cyprus Press and Information Office: Turkish Cypriot Press Review Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Republic of Cyprus Press and Information Office Server at <http://www.pio.gov.cy/>

TURKISH CYPRIOT AND TURKISH MEDIA REVIEW No.: 37/12 22.02.12 C O N T E N T S

[A] TURKISH CYPRIOT / TURKISH PRESS

  • [01] Eroglu: "The criteria and the rules are the important thing on the property issue"
  • [02] Nami: Eroglu is responsible for the deadlock in the Cyprus talks
  • [03] Conclusions of a seminar reiterate Rauf Denktas' vision
  • [04] Italian Minister of Defence supports "a sound solution" in Cyprus
  • [05] Military areas in occupied Cyprus are reportedly distributed secretly
  • [06] Infrastructure works for land oil drilling in occupied Cyprus are completed
  • [07] "New threat to property"; The "Ancient Brits" in despair
  • [08] A bulldozer driver who demolished the Agia Thekla chapel in occupied Vokolida has been fined
  • [09] Cyprus problem was on Davutoglu's agenda in Mexico
  • [10] ECHR convicts Turkey on freedom of speech
  • [11] Chinese VP's visit boosts Turkey ties
  • [12] "The Ecumenical Patriarch is right"
  • [13] "EU and Turkey: Talks languish, trade booms"

  • [A] TURKISH CYPRIOT / TURKISH PRESS

    Statements by Eroglu after his meeting with President Christofias within the framework of the Cyprus talks, accusations against Eroglu by Ozdil Nami that he is responsible for the deadlock in the Cyprus talks, the conclusion of a seminar about Rauf Denktas organized in occupied Lefka area, the completion of the infrastructure works at occupied Syngrasi village where the land drilling for oil will be launched by TPAO, and other internal issues are the main topics covered by the Turkish Cypriot press today. The papers refer also to statements by the Italian Minister of Defence on the Cyprus problem.

    The main issue in today's Turkish press is Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's visit to Turkey on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Turkish-Chinese relations. Some papers report that a group of Uyghur Turks protested Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping's visit due to a massacre of Turks in East Turkistan and set a Chinese flag ablaze. Harsh criticism by the leaders of Turkey's opposition parties directed at the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for pushing ahead with amendments to a law last week which grant almost complete legal immunity to officials at Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and other domestic issues are also covered in today's Turkish press.

    [01] Eroglu: "The criteria and the rules are the important thing on the property issue"

    Under the title: "They started discussing the property", Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (22.02.12) reports that the Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu has said that what is important on the property issue are the criteria and the rules and alleged that in spite of the determination of the Turkish side on this issue, the Greek Cypriot side is not positive and cares only about how much land it will take.

    In statements yesterday in the occupied part of Lefkosia after his meeting with President Christofias within the framework of the Cyprus talks, Eroglu argued that the Turkish Cypriot side has given to the Greek Cypriot side data which it acquired from its "land registry office" and other "offices", as it had promised to the UN Secretary-General.

    Noting that during the meeting they discussed these issues as well, Eroglu argued: "The property is not an issue which will be solved only with data. The criteria and the rules are the important thing here. We have again exhibited our determination on this issue".

    Eroglu alleged that President Christofias is not positive on the property issue because his mentality is that the property could not be concluded if he does not know what he will take on the territory. "In any case, he has conveyed to us in writing what he wants", he added.

    Eroglu argued that the map and the numbers on the territory will be discussed last after the date of the multilateral conference is determined, as the UN Secretary-General has allegedly said in his report. He said that the Turkish side's actions are based on this view.

    Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot daily Bakis (22.02.12) reports that Eroglu met yesterday afternoon at his office with the UN Secretary-General's Special Advisor on Cyprus Alexander Downer. Eroglu's special advisor and spokesman, Kudret Ozersay and Osman Ertug respectively, the member of his negotiating team Gunes Onar and the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim participated in the meeting.

    In statements after the meeting, Downer said they exchanged views on the property, citizenship and governance on which convergence should be achieved. He noted that he had discussed the same issues the day before yesterday with President Christofias and that "we really need positive and constructive progress" by the end of March, when he will submit his report to the UN Secretary-General.

    (I/Ts.)

    [02] Nami: Eroglu is responsible for the deadlock in the Cyprus talks

    Under the title: "'Christofias was not cornered'", Turkish Cypriot daily Star Kibris newspaper (22.02.12) reports that Ozdil Nami, special representative of former Turkish Cypriot leader Talat, has said that the Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu is responsible for the existing deadlock in the Cyprus problem. In statements to private Ada television, Nami noted yesterday that Eroglu is not a leader who has the vision of a federal Cyprus.

    Nami pointed out that Eroglu's stance is in the direction of "exhausting the negotiations" as soon as possible and declaring that no federal solution could be found.

    He said: "Eroglu has never gone to the table with proposals which could corner Christofias?While Talat was negotiating with Christofias, we were pushing Christofias towards the solution and he had coalition partners EDEK and DIKO who were annoyed by this. EDEK resigned. DIKO was threatening every day that it would resign. Christofias was trying to negotiate having this concern. Our approach was that we should not use this against Christofias and that we should make some agreements but wait in the corner. However, Eroglu's approach is not like this. He has a different strategy saying that since Christofias is in this situation, there is no need for me to do anything. Let him announce that this job cannot happen?The inevitable end of the strategy he is following is to lead the faith in the solution in both sides to zero?"

    Nami noted that Eroglu rejected the cross voting as soon as he was elected "president" of the regime and caused waste of time in the negotiations. Nami said also that the reason for the deadlock in the property issue is Eroglu, because he says he could not touch the [occupied Greek Cypriot properties] which the regime distributed as properties of equivalent value. Nami pointed out that the deadlock on the issue of the election of the federal administration is also deriving from Eroglu, because he abandoned Talat's approach.

    Nami argued that if some convergences are achieved on the property and the cross voting, the UN Secretary-General Special Advisor Alexander Downer's report might be positive and the way for a multilateral conference might be paved.

    Nami alleged that if Eroglu exhibits a stance in favour of the solution, like Talat, Turkey will never prevent this.

    (I/Ts.)

    [03] Conclusions of a seminar reiterate Rauf Denktas' vision

    Turkish Cypriot daily Haberdar newspaper (22.02.12) reports that the conclusions of the seminar under the title: "Denktas' path and spiritual legacy in the national cause of Cyprus" organized by illegal Lefka European University (LAU) argue that the "TRNC", breakaway regime in the occupied area of the Republic of Cyprus, is Rauf Denktas' spiritual heritage and it has been established with sacrifices and blood.

    The conclusions reiterate that keeping the regime alive is a historic responsibility of the Turkish nation and the Turkish Cypriot "people". They also express the view that the Turkish side should not be engaged in any new negotiations at any platform where the "TRNC" will not be recognized as "equal and sovereign side". They further argued that the first step should be to secure the recognition of the "TRNC" by other countries, except Turkey.

    The conclusions express also the view that the existing negotiations will be suspended on 1 July, 2012 and no result is expected by then, allegedly because of the stance of the Greek Cypriot side. Moreover, the Turkish allegation as regards the "unacceptable" uncertainty and the so-called isolation of the "TRNC" is reiterated.

    (I/Ts.)

    [04] Italian Minister of Defence supports "a sound solution" in Cyprus

    Turkish Cypriot daily Haberdar newspaper (22.02.12) reports that the Italian Minister of Defence Giampaolo Di Paolo, who is visiting Turkey, has said that Italy supports a sound solution in Cyprus within the framework of the United Nations. Di Paolo met yesterday with his Turkish counterpart Ismet Yilmaz.

    Asked to comment on the "warming up of the waters in Eastern Mediterranean" after the Republic of Cyprus' explorations for natural gas and oil, the Italian Minister replied: "As Italy we support a sound solution within the framework of the United Nations. We are in favour of a solution which will be accepted by the communities living on the island and all the countries in the Mediterranean".

    The Turkish Minister on his part said that Turkey and Italy are two big countries sharing the geography of the Mediterranean. "We have no political problems between us. The bilateral relations within the framework of NATO and in the Mediterranean are very good", he added.

    (I/Ts.)

    [05] Military areas in occupied Cyprus are reportedly distributed secretly

    Writing in his daily column in Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika newspaper (22.02.12), columnist Sener Levent reports that nobody knows the true number of the military zones in the occupied area of the Republic of Cyprus. Levent wonders whether President Christofias asked the Turkish Cypriot leader Eroglu at the negotiating table about this issue. "Given the allegations that in case of a solution the military areas will be left to the Greek Cypriots, he should ask, should he not?" he wondered.

    Under the title: "To whom are the military areas being transferred secretly?" Levent cites some speculations according to which some very valuable lands are sold off by the army and are secretly transferred to some persons. "It is said that some high ranking military officers who served in Cyprus have indirectly acquired these lands by temporarily allotting them in the name of other persons", writes Levent adding that some valuable lands in the coast of occupied Keryneia and Famagusta have been sold off in this manner.

    According to Levent, the Ankara government has found out about the situation and is dealing with the issue. He says that some experts from Turkey have been secretly sent to the island to investigate the issue. Levent gives as examples of land sold off by the army, an area in occupied Famagusta known now as "Istanbul Plaji" and an area in occupied Keryneia known as "Karakiz".

    (I/Ts.)

    [06] Infrastructure works for land oil drilling in occupied Cyprus are completed

    Turkish Cypriot daily Haberdar newspaper (22.02.12) reports that Dadasoglu Hafriyat Company has completed the infrastructure works at Turkyurdu1 location at occupied Syngrasi village in Trikomo district where the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) is expected to launch land drilling for oil and natural gas. According to the paper, four wells have been opened and the company handed over the area to TPAO yesterday. As it is noted, TPAO is expected to drill as deep as 3,000 meters in the first well. The drilling will start on 28 February.

    Meanwhile, according to Haberdar, unknown persons have protested for the drilling by writing on the concrete at Turkyurdu1 location the following: "Go away, piss off. What are you looking for here".

    (I/Ts.)

    [07] "New threat to property"; The "Ancient Brits" in despair

    Turkish Cypriot midweek newspaper Cyprus Today (22.02.12) publishes on its front page the following interview with Justice Minister Loucas Louca by the paper's reporter Anil Isik:

    "Tougher penalties could be on the way from 'illegal' users and owners of former Greek Cypriot properties in north Cyprus.

    The Greek Cypriot Government [editor's note: Government of the Republic of Cyprus] is working closely 'at ministerial level' with the Danish Presidency of the European Union to renew laws regarding property left behind in 1974.

    Justice Minister Loucas Louca told Cyprus Today the proposed amendments to an existing 2006 law would make it 'easier to recognize and execute action against people in any part of the EU'.

    It is reminiscent of the case brought against Hove couple Linda and David Orams, who risked losing their property in the UK unless they 'returned' the land they had bought in Lapta [editor's note: occupied village of Lapithos] to its original Greek Cypriot owner.

    That came from a private prosecution, initially in south Cyprus but then moving to the courts in the UK and Europe, but this builds on an October 2006 law which made it an offence, punishable with up to seven years in jail, for using, buying or selling and developing former Greek Cypriot land in north Cyprus.

    Mr Louca said: 'After the renewal of the regulation, European citizens possessing Greek Cypriot-owned properties illegally might face difficulties and challenges, not only in Cyprus but in any other EU country, like the Oramses.

    'This is not a political but a civil issue. That's why we are taking action on the issue within the framework of civil issues at EU level'.

    He declined to give the exact details of what was being discussed as the revision of the law was still being worked on, but added that he hoped there would be a conclusion on the issue during the Greek Cypriot presidency that begins on July 1.

    While the laws could not be enforced within the TRNC, people heading south to shop, go for a day trip or to fly from Larnaca or Paphos could be affected.

    Marian Stokes, cofounder of the HomeBuyers' Pressure Group (HBPG), said many EU citizens living in north Cyprus had already lost out to the TRNC builders and courts.

    'This will mean more misery. More misery, worry and illness for people. How much can you beat somebody before they cave in?' she asked.

    'When we were discussing the housing problems before setting up the HBPC we said that we would solve those problems and then the Greek Cypriots would come along.

    'In October 2006, when the law was passed, they started searching people for papers at the crossings. It wasn't very pleasant.'

    'This is when the British Government, as most of the buyers are British, is going to have to come to the rescue. If it doesn't, the victims will be going back to live on the social security system in the UK, many for the first time in their life. They will be penniless.

    'It's the ultimate insult.'

    Stephen Day, chairman of the British Residents' Society (BRS), said it was important that people didn't panic.

    He said that Brussels do not recognize the TRNC and admitted itself that EU law, the acquis communautaire, could not be enforced in North Cyprus.

    'It's something we need to watch', he said. 'The Greek Cypriots are using their connections in the European Parliament to verbally stir up the issue'.

    Emine Colak, chairman of the Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation said the moves could prove 'disastrous'.

    'Such a regulation will have an enormous impact on EU citizens in the north. Everyone in the north, TRNC citizens and expats in one way or another has an involvement with former Greek Cypriot properties, she said."

    [08] A bulldozer driver who demolished the Agia Thekla chapel in occupied Vokolida has been fined

    Turkish Cypriot midweek newspaper Cyprus Today (22.02.12), under the title: "Man who bulldozed Greek chapel must pay 40,000 TL", reports that Fatih Ahmet Erol, a bulldozer driver, who razed the 200-year-old Greek Orthodox Agia Thekla Chapel at the occupied village of Vokolida to the ground last May has been fined 250 TL.

    However, the paper reports that so-called Famagusta assizes court also ordered Erol to pay 40,000 TL towards the reconstruction of Agia Thekla Chapel. The money was paid to the "ancient monuments and museums department" which will oversee the project and Erol was released from custody. He had been threatened with nine months in jail if he failed to pay the sum of money.

    [09] Cyprus problem was on Davutoglu's agenda in Mexico

    Under the title: "Davutoglu meets EU, German counterparts in Mexico", Turkish daily newspaper Today's Zaman (21.02.12) reported the following:

    "Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had several bilateral talks with several leaders within the scope of an ongoing G-20 meeting of Foreign Ministers in Mexico on Monday.

    Davutoglu met with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Marcos Timerman and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton. Iran, Syria, Turkey-EU relations, Cyprus and Iran's nuclear program were high on the agenda.

    Diplomatic sources also said Ashton and Davutoglu discussed Turkish-EU relations along with the latest situation in Iran and Syria and current peace talks to reunify the divided island of Cyprus, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported. Both officials discussed the latest situation with respect to Iran's suspected nuclear program and talks with major powers in Turkey, which Iran consented to earlier.

    Sources also stated that Davutoglu told Ashton that Turkey favours peaceful diplomatic discussions in coping with Iran's nuclear imbroglio and that Turkey is ready to do whatever is necessary.

    Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Sunday that the next round of talks between Iran and six world powers on the country's nuclear program will be held in Turkey. Salehi didn't give any date for the talks.

    The last round of talks between Iran and the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council plus Germany was held in 0stanbul in January of 2011, but ended in failure. The West wants Iran to meet UN Security Council demands to stop uranium enrichment, but Tehran has accused the other side of pushing not  dialogue but dictation'.

    In his meeting with Westerwelle, Davutoglu discussed Turkish-EU relations, Cyprus and developments in Iran and Syria."

    [10] ECHR convicts Turkey on freedom of speech

    Turkish daily newspaper Hurriyet Daily News (online, 22.02.12) with the above title reports that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled against Turkey in the case of Erbil Tusalp, a Turkish journalist sentenced to pay damages to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for defamation, indicating Tusalp's right to freedom of expression had been violated.

    "It was true that Mr. Tusalp had used a satirical style to convey his strong criticism. In that context, the court underlined that the protection of Article 10 was applicable not only to information or ideas that were favourably received but also to those which offended, shocked or disturbed," read the European court's verdict that was pronounced yesterday.

    The European court sentenced Turkey to pay a fine in the amount of 5,000 euro in respect of non-pecuniary damage and rejected all charges levelled against Tusalp, including defamation, violation of personal rights and going beyond the limits of acceptable criticism.

    "The plaintiff in the two sets of compensation proceedings was the Prime Minister, thus a very high-ranking politician. The court underlined that the limits of acceptable criticism were wider for a politician than for a private individual. He would therefore have been obliged to display a greater degree of tolerance," further read the court's ruling.

    An Ankara court had sentenced Tusalp to pay a fine in the amount of 10,000 Turkish Liras in 2006 for two articles he had penned. Titled "Stability" (Istikrar) and "Get Well Soon" (Gecmis Olsun), the articles were published in the daily Birgun in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

    Tusalp appealed to the European Court in 2008, the same year Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals approved the 2006 ruling of the Ankara court.

    [11] Chinese VP's visit boosts Turkey ties

    Turkish daily newspaper Hurriyet Daily News (online, 22.02.12) reports the following:

    "Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, the frontrunner to become China's next leader, has begun a visit to Turkey that aims to strengthen bilateral ties in the economic, political and security realms.

    'Turkey and China have been playing an important role in international and regional affairs in recent years,' Xi said, recalling that the two countries had agreed on strategic cooperation in 2010. 'I believe that Xi's visit will bring a special meaning to relations,' Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Cicek said during his meeting with the Vice President.

    Cicek hinted at disagreements between Ankara and Beijing ? an apparent reference to the situation of China's Uighur community ? but added that bilateral cooperation should not be affected by any problems. 'Undoubtedly, there are issues the two countries are sensitive about. But we, as Turkey, are taking up those issues delicately, in a spirit of cooperation and within a framework that would not harm our relations,' he said.

    Earlier in the day, police sealed off streets leading to Xi's hotel as dozens of demonstrators assembled in the area to protest China's policies against the Uighur minority in its western Xinjiang region.

    The group set two Chinese flags on fire and stamped on them while chanting anti-Chinese slogans. Many members of the Uighur community, which share ethnic and historic bonds with Turkey, have taken refuge in the country.

    Human rights groups have accused China of committing abuses during a crackdown after Uighur riots in 2009; at the time, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the events as 'genocide'.

    Xi, who is on the last leg of a trip that also took him to the United States and Ireland, signed cooperation agreements with President Abdullah Gul that included financial cooperation between the Treasury Undersecretaries and the China Development Bank, a Memorandum of Understanding between Turkish public broadcaster TRT and Chinese Central Television (CCTV), as well as a currency swap agreement worth 10 billion yuan ($1.58 billion).

    Currency swap agreement

    Turkey and China have been sharply at odds on the Syrian crisis, which was one of the key issues on Xi's agenda. During his talks with Gul, Xi said he gave importance to Turkey and aimed to strengthen ties, especially trade relations, a Turkish official told the Hurriyet Daily News.

    Praising Turkey's regional and international role, Xi said they would like to further cooperation with Turkey in the United Nations and G-20 mechanisms, according to the official. Turkey and China are two countries that wrote history and connected with each other via the Silk Road, Xi told Gul, adding that both sides should conduct high-level talks, according to the official. Xi is scheduled to attend a business forum in Istanbul today during which Chinese business leaders were expected to conduct deals totalling close to 500 million dollars, the official said.

    China is Turkey's 15th biggest export market; Turkish companies sold nearly $2.5 billion worth of goods in the People's Republic last year, a rise of 8.7% from the previous year. Some $21.6 billion worth of Chinese goods were imported to Turkey in 2011.

    Meanwhile, China and Turkey signed a three-year currency swap agreement worth 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion), or 3 billion Turkish Liras, the Turkish Central Bank said.

    The accord will facilitate bilateral trade in the Turkish and Chinese currencies and may be extended, the Central Bank in Ankara said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. China has been expanding currency-swap agreements as it promotes the international use of the yuan. Aiming to increase its exports, Turkey has previously signed a similar agreement with Pakistan and is expected to sign another one with Malaysia soon."

    [12] "The Ecumenical Patriarch is right"

    Columnist Mustafa Akyol, writing in Turkish daily newspaper Hurriyet Daily News (online, 22.02.12), comments on Patriarch Bartholomeos' visit at the Turkish Parliament, with the above title, as follows:

    "Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, visited the Turkish Parliament the other day. This was a first, for His All Holiness had visited the Turkish Parliament only once before, and only to attend the funeral of the late President Turgut Ozal. But this time, he was invited by the Parliament's Constitution Conciliation Commission, in which Deputies from all parties work together to draft a new charter for Turkey.

    After his meeting at the commission, where he expressed his expectations from the new constitution, His All Holiness said the following to journalists:

    'It is the first official invitation to non-Muslim minorities in Republican history. We don't want to be second-class citizens. Unfortunately there have been injustices in the past. These are all slowly being rectified. A new Turkey is being born. We are leaving the meeting with hope and are extremely grateful.'

    What a great summary that was. It underlined the bitter fact that throughout the history of the 'secular' Turkish Republic, non-Muslims were seen as second-class citizens, if not enemies within. It also heralded that 'a new Turkey is being born', in which the anti-non-Muslim prejudices of the past were being abandoned 'slowly'. (I, too, wish the change came faster.) The Ecumenical Patriarch also noted that this current transformation in Turkey made him, and his fellow Christians, hopeful and grateful.

    Now, if you are among those who believe that Turkey is being drawn away from its bright secular past to an Islamist 'darkness', you might find these hard to believe. But please do believe the Ecumenical Patriarch, and let me explain to you why he is right.

    His All Holiness is right, because the main threat to Turkey's Christians and Jews has not been Islam, but Turkish nationalism. In fact Islam respects the religious rights of 'the people of the book' ? Jews and Christians ? and that is why non-Muslims had freedom of worship throughout the Ottoman centuries. In the mid-19th century, the Ottoman Empire also gave equal citizenship rights to non-Muslims, leading to the appearance of many Christians and Jews in the Ottoman bureaucracy and Parliament.

    In the 20th century, however, both the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the nation-state model imported from continental Europe led to the emergence of Turkish nationalism. This secular yet illiberal ideology had little respect for 'the people of the book' and wanted to create a non-Muslim-free Turkey ? not for its love of Muslimness, but Turkishness. Hence came the ethnic cleansing of the Armenians, Greeks or the Assyrians, or the 'Wealth Tax' on all non-Muslims including the Jews.

    Kemalism, the official ideology of the Turkish Republic, was the embodiment of this nationalist paradigm. Clueless Westerners often praised Kemalism for its 'secularism' and 'modernism', but little they noticed that the persecution of Turkey's Christians (and Kurds, for that matter), from which they rightfully complained, was carried out by none other than the Kemalist Jacobins and their sans-culottes. (By the latter, I refer to the vulgar ultra-nationalists of Turkey, whose ideology is a crude but natural reflection of that of the more sophisticated Kemalist elite.)

    That is why post-Kemalist Turkey, just like the pre-Kemalist (Ottoman) one, will be more amiable to non-Muslims. And we are seeing the evidence of that day by day.

    P.S.: You might have noted that I did not call the Ecumenical Patriarchate 'Fener Rum Orthodox Patriarchate' as the Turkish state and mainstream media does. For I believe that every religious institution has a right to define itself, a right that should be respected by others."

    [13] "EU and Turkey: Talks languish, trade booms"

    Under the above title, Turkish daily newspaper Today's Zaman (online, 22.02.12) published the following article:

    "If a project has no deadline, is it really a project? What do you call a negotiation process in which the partners can't talk about key issues? These are existential times for Turkey's campaign to join the European Union - an ambitious vision that has become increasingly ambiguous.

    At a time when Greece's survival in the eurozone is in jeopardy, it seems academic to debate a Turkish entry to European ranks that some Turks feel won't happen in their lifetime, if at all. The more pressing question is whether the suitors should, as with any soured romance, call it quits or rekindle the flame.

    When accession talks began in 2005, the idea was that Turkey's Muslim population would enrich the continent, culturally and economically, with Turkey itself destined to become a European-style democracy that could serve as an east-west bridge.

    More than six years later, doubt haunts hope.

    Economic troubles mean that Europe, where scepticism toward the Turkish bid was already building, has little energy to expand, while in Turkey reform efforts have slowed and the nation has sought to carve out a leadership role in the Middle East.

    'Without a deadline, without a final aim, there is no process,' said Cengiz Aktar, a political science professor at Bahcesehir University in 0stanbul.  There can't be an endless project.'

    Aktar, who attended the opening of an EU information office at the university on Friday, said it was  high time' for a reassessment of Turkey's bid. He rejected the argument that EU-backed reform alone was enough, as though the journey was as good as the destination.

    The debate is in limbo partly because France and Germany, which have spoken against full Turkish membership, hold elections this year and 2013 respectively, and no bold initiatives, are expected during the political campaign season.

    Even if those European heavyweights choose governments that are more sympathetic to Turkey's candidacy, there is no sign of progress on a long-running dispute over EU member Cyprus, where the Greek-speaking south observes European rules and Turkey aids and occupies the isolated Turkish Cypriot north.

    Jean-Maurice Ripert, the EU's new Ambassador to Turkey, said more joint teams would be formed to lay technical groundwork for accession in case political conditions improve in the years ahead. He cited 40,000 student exchanges between Turkey and the EU last year, as well as EU plans to spend 800 million euros ($1.06 billion) this year on European development projects in Turkey.

    'Don't think that nothing is happening,' he said in a meeting with foreign journalists. Since his January arrival, Ripert said, Turkish officials have assured him of their commitment to joining the European Union and voiced frustration with what they see as European opposition.

    In the past decade, Turkey has evolved into a regional powerhouse whose foreign policy remains in step with, but no longer defined by, its allies in NATO. Europe, meanwhile, was signalling fatigue with the idea of expansion well before it sank into recession.

    'In Brussels nowadays, you hear very little talk of enlargement,' said Sinan Ulgen, chairman of EDAM, a research centre in Istanbul, and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in the Belgian capital. 'The main issue is essentially the economic crisis'.

    Numbers tell the story of the failure and potential of the Turkish bid, a legacy of Ottoman sultans who sought to upgrade their crumbling empire with European ideas, as well as Mustafa Kemal Atat?rk, the national founder who looked westward for inspiration.

    Half of the three-dozen subjects, or chapters, in membership negotiations are blocked. No new chapter has been opened since June 2010. However, Europe accounts for nearly half of Turkey's foreign trade, as well as about 85% of foreign direct investment there.

    Turkey once highly anticipated the EU's annual report on its membership progress. Interest has dwindled. European officials have expressed concern about minority rights, the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, and Turkey has slammed Greek Cypriot vetoes of negotiations and a French bill that would criminalize denial that the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks was a genocide.

    'The Europe that is afraid of speaking and arguing has nothing to give humanity,' Turkey's Anadolu agency quoted Egemen Bagis, Turkey's Minister for EU affairs, as saying. 'But the EU that we always emphasize being the most comprehensive peace project in the history of humanity has to be more courageous and liberal.'

    Andrew Gardner, an Amnesty International researcher, said EU-inspired legislative reform in Turkey had resulted in fewer reported cases of torture in police stations and prisons, but warned of a 'regression of the human rights situation' in Turkey, particularly with regard to free expression. He also cited the negative impact of statements by EU leaders suggesting Turkey might not be accepted as a full member even if it fulfils human rights obligations.

    Suat Kiniklioglu, a former ruling party lawmaker and director of the Ankara-based Center for Strategic Communication, captured the ambiguity that shrouds Turkey's EU campaign by offering two ways to look at it.

    The first: 'The process is going nowhere and neither side is willing to admit it. This is heading toward a slow death.'

    The second, which he prefers: 'The current impasse is actually not that bad as Europe needs time to sort out its own problems while Turkey will continue to grow and reform domestically at its own pace. The negotiations can be revived any time the two sides feel they are ready.'

    Ulgen, the visiting scholar in Brussels, said a 'vicious circle' had developed, in which Turkey, once praised for its reform program, loses enthusiasm for a process that it believes is unfair, while Europe loses leverage over a process that some of its leaders treat with ambivalence." TURKISH AFFAIRS SECTION http://www.moi.gov.cy/pio

    /EI


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