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EU To Partially Freeze Turkish Membership Talks

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

13 December 2006

In their meeting held in Brussels on Monday, EU foreign ministers agreed on a partial freeze of Turkey's membership talks after its failure to normalise trade with Cyprus. The ministers said they would suspend eight of the 35 chapters on the agenda of the accession negotiations.

Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja of the EU Presidency saw the outcome as, paradoxically, an encouragement to Turkey.

"Nobody questioned the possibility of Turkey joining the EU once it meets all the criteria," he explained at a press conference after the meeting.

The General Affairs and External Relations Council of the EU foreign ministers found consensus on three documents concerning the enlargement. They adopted the Council Conclusions which entail the continuance of negotiations with Turkey and agreed on a presidency statement on the EU's support for UN efforts to find a solution in the Cyprus issue. The ministers also found political agreement on the framework of economic development in the northern part of Cyprus.

"All in all, there will be no Turkey summit on Thursday and Friday," Mr Tuomioja concluded.

In a statement on the matter released on Monday, the Finnish EU Presidency announced that:

"The Presidency of the European Union after discussions in the Council expresses its full support for the ongoing efforts of the United Nations Secretary General to resume the negotiations for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem in line with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and the principles on which the EU is founded."

"The Presidency welcomes the positive responses of the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Communities to the letter of United Nations Under-Secretary General Gambari on the implementation of their July 8 agreement. The Presidency emphasises the need to quickly start this preparatory work in order for the United Nations Secretary General's Good Offices mission to resume without unnecessary delay. The Presidency encourages the two communities to ensure that the right atmosphere prevails for this process to flourish."

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