Merkel urges Ankara to act on Cyprus ports dispute

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Turkey to open its ports and airports to traffic from European Union member Greek Cyprus, emphasizing that a dispute between the EU and candidate Turkey blocks Ankara’s path for membership.

Merkel, speaking to a group of Turkish reporters in Berlin on Thursday, said Turkey must implement the Ankara protocol, which the EU says makes it a legal obligation for Turkey to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot vessels. “We have to achieve progress in this area,” Merkel said, adding that she will visit Greek Cyprus early next year to do her share to speed up efforts for a solution.

Turkey refuses to open its ports and airports to Greek Cyprus, saying the EU should also act on a 2004 promise to take measures to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, a proposal blocked in the EU by the Greek Cypriots. In 2006, the EU froze accession negotiations with Turkey on eight out of 35 chapters due to Ankara’s failure to comply with its demands on the ports row.

Turkey opened accession negotiations with the EU in 2005 but progress since then has been very slow. Ankara says some EU states, such as Germany and France, are using the Cyprus issue as a pretext to block its accession process while they are opposed to an eventual Turkish membership on the grounds of cultural and religious differences. Merkel, along with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, are opposed to membership and propose a privileged partnership for Turkey instead.

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