Crunch EU Meetings with Turkey, Cyprus Cancelled: Finland

The European Union's Finnish presidency cancelled on Thursday crunch meetings with top Turkish and Cypriot officials, casting clouds over Turkey's EU ambitions ahead of a key report.

   Finland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, had invited Turkish and Cypriot officials to last-minute talks in Helsinki on Sunday and Monday, hoping to make headway in some of the problem areas.

   However a Finnish spokesman in Brussels said it had proved impossible to organise the meetings, to which foreign ministers had been invited.

   "The meeting on Sunday has been cancelled, there will be no meetings at all," he said.

   The European Commission is set to deal a blow to Turkey's EU membership hopes next week with the publication of a key report which criticises Ankara's pace of reform and its stance on Cyprus, according to European sources here.

   It had been hoped that the Finnish initiative could allow for some last-minute tweaking of the Commission report, to be issued on November 8.

   That report will also be "very critical on the freedom of expression," a European source said.

   Cyprus, as an EU member, has the right of veto over Turkey's bid for EU membership.

   The Finnish plans for talks fell through because they were unable to gather all parties to the problem, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said.

   "As far as I know, they (Finland) were unable to bring together all the parties to the problem," Gul told reporters upon his return to Ankara from a visit to Moscow.

   "Finland strove with goodwill, but unfortunately were unable to create an environment in which to take a positive step because, unfortunately, the sides they invited did not want to participate in such a meeting," he said.

   The EU's initiative on Cyprus will continue on Friday, in diluted form, with a meeting in Brussels between Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja and Mehmet Ali Talat, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot Community.

   A European source said that the meetings planned by the EU presidency had become "impossible" due to Turkish unwillingness to meet up with Greek Cypriot representatives.

   The 25 EU member states are set to discuss the Turkey-Cyprus issue at their summit in December.

Source: AFP

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