Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul made the defiant statement on Thursday before flying to Britain.
EU foreign ministers are currently in London to discuss the implications of Turkey’s refusal to recognise Cyprus for the planned start of its membership talks on 3 October.
“Ports and airports are in the services sector, this [opening] is expected only of full EU members,” Gul said at Ankara airport.
“This is different from what is expected of those negotiating [membership] … . Let nobody play politics with Turkey.”
The European Commission has repeatedly told Turkey it must allow free access to shipping and aircraft from Cyprus under the customs agreement, but EU leaders did not make that a condition for starting talks.
A spokesman for the British presidency of the 25-nation bloc said Turkey must not discriminate among EU members in the way it applies the customs union, which it agreed in July to extend to the new member states.
Some EU ministers have already discussed a counter-declaration to Turkey’s 29 July statement on Cyprus that would insist on full and non-discriminatory implementation of the customs pact and stress the importance of Ankara normalising relations with all EU members “as soon as can be achieved”.
Some 35,000 Turkish troops are
However, the ministers differed over how tough the statement should be and sent the British draft back to ambassadors in Brussels for further discussion, diplomats said.
One preparatory text said the EU expected the removal of all obstacles to the free movement of goods, including restrictions on means of transport, and would evaluate Turkey’s full implementation next year.
It also warned that the EU would not start negotiating on issues such as transport or free movement of goods until Turkey met its contractual obligations. But diplomats said Cyprus and its supporters sought more binding wording.
Difference of opinion
French leaders, reacting to massive public opposition to Turkish EU membership, have latched on to the Cyprus issue to argue it is inconceivable that Ankara should negotiate accession while refusing to recognise one of the EU’s member states.
However, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said the EU had never demanded that Turkey recognise Cyprus as a condition for opening accession talks and it could not suddenly move the goalposts at the last minute.
“Turkey has met the conditions for starting negotiations and you cannot change the conditions right before the talks are due to begin,” he told reporters.
“Of course we will make it clear that Cyprus … has to be recognised before the Turks can become members, but not before starting negotiations. That has never been a demand.”
Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 in response to a short-lived Greek Cypriot coup in Nicosia and has maintained 35,000 troops in the north of the divided island. It is alone in recognising a Turkish Cypriot republic shunned by the international community.
Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots supported a UN peace plan last year to reunite the island but the Greek Cypriots rejected it in a referendum. The EU nevertheless admitted Cyprus last May represented by the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia.
EU member states must approve unanimously a negotiating mandate before the talks can begin, giving Cyprus a veto.