NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Turkey's foreign minister on Saturday called for a deal reunifying ethnically split Cyprus before the island assumes the European Union's presidency in mid-2012.
Ahmet Davutoglu said that a "new state" bringing together Greek and Turkish Cypriots would make a Cyprus EU presidency legitimate because it would represent the whole island.
Responding to Davutoglu's remarks, Greek Cypriot government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said it's up to Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots whether Cyprus assumes the EU presidency as a reunified state.
"If the Turkish side cooperates for a settlement, then both communities can assume the presidency as part of a reunified Cypriot state. If not, the responsibility is its own."
Cyprus was divided into a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. The island joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys membership benefits. Numerous U.N.-mediated attempts at reunification have failed. The dispute has also hampered Turkey's bid to join the EU.
"My message to EU is the European vision necessitates a solution until the presidency next year," Davutoglu said after talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu in the northern half of the divided capital, Nicosia.
"It will be against European values if one side is being isolated and the other side will be seen as the representative of all the island during this presidency. This will be another mistake," he said.
Almost three years of U.N.-mediated talks in the latest peace drive has produced limited progress, taxing the U.N.'s patience with people on both sides of the divide growing increasingly weary.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this week that he expects Eroglu and Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias to ramp up talks and to reach agreement by October on all core issues.
The two sides have made some progress on how they might govern themselves in an envisioned federation, but other core issues have yet to be discussed, including how to settle territorial adjustments and claims on private property lost after the 1974 war.
Any settlement would need approval from both sides in separate referendums.
Davutoglu said an accord should be concluded by year's end followed by referendums in the first months of 2012 that would enable a reunified island to assume a "legitimate (EU) presidency to represent all the island."
Davutoglu said "there would be no ethical ground or justification" to keep the breakaway north internationally isolated if the talks collapse "despite all this good will of the Turkish Cypriot side."