Turkey wishes European Union to force Cypriots to consider modern settlement plan

Turkey hopes the European Union will pressure one of its smallest members to end the 31-year-old standoff between Turks and Greeks over Cyprus, the foreign minister said Wednesday. Abdullah Gul, speaking over lunch with foreign journalists in Istanbul, expressed little optimism that the new "action plan" he declared Tuesday would be seriously considered by Greek Cypriots, and suggested that the EU should step in to fill the gap.

"The Greek Cypriot sides are not taking action, they are not doing anything," Gul said. "We have to question the sincerity of the sides."

Gul's proposal for Turkey to open its ports to Cypriot vessels in exchange for the lifting of economic restrictions on Turkish Cyprus was dismissed by Greek Cypriot leaders even before it was made public Tuesday.

Gul's counterpart, Cyprus Foreign Minister George Iakovou, called Turkey's proposal "reheated food," and Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos later said it was "nothing but an attempt by Turkey to avoid fulfilling its obligations."

Greek Cypriots have rejected previous settlement proposals, including one that was personally backed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

"The European Union cannot ignore half of the island," Gul said, adding that allowing Cyprus into the EU in 2004 was "a mistake." The union now had an obligation to deal with one of its own, he said. "We are expecting the European Union to fulfill its commitments," Gul said.

Cyprus has been split into Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides since 1974, when Turkey invaded to stop a coup aiming to unite the entire island with Greece.

At present, the government of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot republic is recognized only by Turkey, which refuses to recognize the Greek-Cypriot government of Cyprus and stations 40,000 troops in the Turkish-administered north of the island.

As Gul spoke, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw was visiting Cyprus, where he met with leaders of the breakaway northern state. Greek Cypriot President Papadopoulos refused to meet with Straw, saying the meeting with Turkish Cypriot leaders offended Greeks on the divided island, reports the AP.

D.M.