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Turkey calls EU 'weak', can't unblock stalled entry talks

Associated Press Associated Press 9/09/2016 By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS, Associated Press

ISTANBUL — Turkey's foreign minister on Friday accused the European Union of "weakness" for not being able to get ethnically divided Cyprus to stop blocking key parts of Turkey's membership negotiations with the 28-member bloc.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said a deal reunifying Cyprus isn't a criterion for starting talks on policy areas — or chapters — that EU-member Cyprus continues to obstruct.

"The EU's inability to prevent a country from blocking the opening of chapters is another show of the EU's weakness in overcoming problems," Cavusoglu said after talks with the EU's foreign policy chief and enlargement commissioner.

Cavusoglu said Turkey is helping ongoing Cyprus peace talks and expects the EU to do more as well. EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini spoke of a "window of more than hope" that a Cyprus accord can be achieved.

"We both can contribute enormously to a (Cyprus) solution," said Mogherini. "We both want this to happen and I believe we both believe that this could happen now, in the near future."

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said he shares Turkey's view that chapters 23 and 24 — that deal with justice, the judiciary, fundamental rights and freedoms and security — should be opened, and that a Cyprus peace deal would make that happen.

Cyprus is divided between a Greek-speaking south and a Turkish-speaking north. Turkey doesn't recognize Cyprus as a state and only recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.

Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the south enjoys full membership benefits.

All EU members must consent to EU entry talks with candidate countries. Cyprus has blocked six of 35 EU-Turkey negotiation chapters since 2009 because of Ankara's refusal to recognize it and to allow Cypriot ships and airplanes to use its ports and airports.

The Cyprus government says it won't allow negotiations to start on the chapters unless Turkey does more to help the reunification talks that are now in an intensified phase.

A key stumbling block remains a Turkish Cypriot insistence on granting Turkey military intervention rights, something that Greek Cypriots strongly oppose.

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Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed.

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