EU envoys meet to talk on Turkish EU membership

With time pressing, European Union ambassadors met again behind closed doors Monday in an effort to break the stalemate over how to open membership talks with Turkey.

Cyprus, backed by Greece and the Czech Republic, continued to demand a tougher joint declaration on Turkey's refusal to recognize Cyprus during talks last week at EU headquarters, diplomats said.

Britain, which holds the EU presidency has only two weeks left to get a deal on a declaration and on agreeing on a negotiating mandate the EU is to present to Turkey at the expected start of entry talks Oct.3.

The EU wants to issue a declaration demanding Turkey recognize Cyprus quickly after Ankara said a customs union it signed with Cyprus and the 9 other new EU states that joined last year, did not mean it recognizes the Mediterranean island.

All 25 EU governments also have to agree on a negotiating mandate for Turkey before the talks begin.

Failure to agree could cause diplomatic problems. Ankara argues it has fulfilled all requirements to secure a date to open entry talks and now expects Europe to carry through on its word.

A text presented at last week's talks toughens the language on monitoring Turkey's progress in implementing the customs union and it urges renewed United Nations efforts to reunite Cyprus.

The Cypriot government is demanding a specific deadline be made during the talks for Turkey's recognition of the government of the island, which has been divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriots since Turkey invaded in 1974.

Cyprus also wants EU monitoring to ensure its ships and planes have full access to Turkish harbors and airports, as part of the EU's declaration.

The new draft called for Turkey to normalize relations with "all EU member states, as soon as possible," but offered no timetable for recognition.

Meanwhile Austria is pushing for clarification in the EU's proposed negotiating guidelines that say the outcome of the talks does not guarantee full membership for Turkey, but also leaves open the possibility of a "partnership" with the EU.

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