Saturday, September 03, 2005

EU Membership helping resolve Gibraltar / Spain issue, says Straw

EU summit: Turkish EU accession talks

Foriegn Secretary Jack Straw yesterday reiterated his hope that discussions on Turkish membership of the EU would begin as planned next month and he used Gibraltar and Northern Ireland as illustrations of territorial disputes that have made EU accession talks complex.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul joined the Foreign Ministers of the 25 EU members states for informal talks in Newport, south Wales, yesterday.

Turkish membership is backed by Britain, but other states remain sceptical. Some, like France and Austria, support the idea of giving Turkey a "special relationship" rather than full membership.

The Economist quoted Mr Gul as saying Turkey would “walk away’’ from the negotiating table if it was not offered full membership.

The main sticking point is over allowing access to Turkish ports for vessels from Cyprus - scene of a long standing dispute between Turkey and Greece.

Mr Straw said:

“As ever when you are facing contingencies, it is unwise to say you are certain, but I am reasonably confident."

The Cyprus issue and the framework for the accession discussion themselves had to be resolved ahead of the October 3 deadline, Mr Straw said.

He had earlier told reporters:

“I understand what Cyprus wants. This is a complex issue with a great deal of history attached to it, and it’s going to take time to resolve it.

Cyprus is not the only country where there have been problems with the mutual recognition of territory.

When Ireland and the UK came into the European Union in 1973, in the constitution of the Republic of Ireland there was an unresolved claim to the six counties that make up Northern Ireland. That took many, many decades to resolve.

There is a continuing argument, debate, in respect of Gibraltar. Both in respect of the Irish issue and the Gibraltar issue, its membership of the EU is actually helping resolution of those issues."

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