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Cyprus cannot be allowed to block Turkish EU bid, says Jagland

10 February 2010 [09:34] - TODAY.AZ
Although the Cyprus problem has been used to block Turkish accession to the European Union, Turkey has still contributed enormously to Europe, according to Thorbjørn Jagland, secretary-general of the Council of Europe. 'We cannot let the Cyprus issue block accession,' he says.

Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot leaders are running out of time to reach a settlement on the divided island, according to Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjørn Jagland.

“Now, we’re in hurry. We can only hope things can be sorted out before the elections,” said Jagland.

Jagland said it was “very unfortunate” that the Greek community had said “no” to a 2004 settlement backed by the United Nations. “They did not use the opportunity at that time to solve the conflict.”

“U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was on the island a few days ago. It could be good sign that the U.N. [is putting] pressure on the parties to move forward,” he said.

The Cyprus issue may continue blocking Turkey’s accession to the European Union as long as no settlement is reached, he said. “This is a matter of fact. A unanimous decision is needed for accession of new members.”

Outlining the severity of the matter, Jagland said: “I really hope everyone understands that this issue is important for not only Cyprus, but [all of] Europe. It has been used to block Turkish accession.”

Jagland said he has emphasized a number of times how much Turkey is contributing to regional stability. “Turkey is now contributing to solving conflicts in the Middle East and South Caucasus, which is enormously important for Europe,” he said, adding that the Cyprus issue could not be allowed to derail these contributions.

Turkish deputy Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was recently elected president of the council’s parliament while Turkey is also slated to assume the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, the pan-European organization’s decision-making body from November 2010 to May 2011.

“Turkey is playing such a pioneering role in Europe and in its neighborhood; that should be appreciated,” he said, adding that it was impressive that Turkey is continuing its reform process despite the negativity of some European leaders to the country’s EU accession. “Turkey is moving rapidly in the right direction. They could be more pessimism due to the remarks of some European leaders.”

Touching on the issue of Islam in the West, Jagland said, “What worries me is that people relate very much Islam to terrorism.”

In reference to Switzerland recently banning the construction of new minarets, he said: “The vote in Switzerland worried me a lot. People are afraid of and go against Muslims. It is a dangerous development when they mix up migration, unemployment and social frustration in the big cities.”

He suggested the council could do much more for intercultural an inter-religious dialogue through educational programs, adding that terrorist attacks have nothing to do with Islam.

“Therefore, what you’re doing in Turkey is very important, showing the opposite example, that Islam and democracy and the rule of law can be reconciled,” he said.

The Constitutional Court should prosecute politicians individually rather than closing the entire party, Jagland said. “When you ban the entire party, it must be absolutely clear that the party is concretely contributing to terrorist activities. Otherwise individuals should be prosecuted.”

Furthermore, he said, “Many politicians in Turkey say the Constitution should be changed so that is not so easy to ban a party.”

Asked whether the council has considered taking steps to produce a permanent settlement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict given that Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey are member states, Jagland said his body had not been asked by the parties to mediate in the process.

“First of all, I very much appreciate the protocols between the two countries and hope it can get through both parliaments,” he said. “I think it is important that this process is being handled by national political bodies and [receiving] support from public opinion. Without that, it will fail.”

In the end, he said there was only a little role the council could play in the matter. “I don’t see any need for interference or any kind of assistance to the process if the parties do not ask for it.”

Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjørn Jagland, who has been arranging appointments with politicians, officials, academics and NGOs, applied for a meeting with Deniz Baykal, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP.

Baykal, however, failed to agree to a meeting with the secretary-general. According to Baykal’s office, the CHP leader was engaged in a group meeting in Parliament and had no time to talk with Jagland.

/Hurriyet Daily News/

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