French President Jacques Chirac advises Turkey to agree with Cyprus

Turkey must clarify its position on Cyprus and ensure it will respect all its commitments to the EU before it can join the 25-nation bloc, French President Jacques Chirac said Monday.

The beginning of formal negotiations between the EU and Ankara, set for Oct. 3, is "just the start of a long and difficult road with an uncertain outcome," Chirac told French ambassadors gathered in Paris.

Turkey's refusal to recognize the Cypriot government has become a contentious issue in its bid, because EU-member Cyprus will be one of the 25 bloc members involved in negotiations, the AP informs.

Turkey signed an accord extending its customs agreement with the European Union to Cyprus and other new EU members on July 29, a key prerequisite before it can open entry talks.

However, in a separate declaration, Turkey said its signature to the customs deal was not a recognition of the Cypriot government.

France believes Turkey's second declaration cancels out the customs deal.

"After its unilateral decision on Cyprus, Turkey must offer clarifications and ensure the 25-nation Union of its willingness to fully respect all of its obligations," Chirac said.

Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish-occupied north and a Greek-Cypriot south since a 1974 Turkish invasion in response to a failed coup by supporters of union with Greece.

The authority of the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot-led government is in effect confined to the south of a cease-fire line dividing the island.

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