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Friday, February 24, 2006

Pardon My French!

Turkey yesterday refused to allow a Cyprus flagged ship to enter the Turkish port of Mersin. The government of RoC says the denial of permission to dock was a violation of the customs union agreement. Please read below for more details and to see what the Prime Minister of Turkey had to say about this matter.

Erdogan insult as Turkey turns Cyprus ship away

By Philippos Stylianou

A CONTAINER ship flying the Cypriot flag that sought to unload its cargo of textiles at the southern Turkish port of Mersin, was turned away, raising a storm in the already-troubled waters between Cyprus, Turkey and the EU.

Following protests by the Cyprus Government, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said yesterday that a European Parliament enlargement team stationed in Ankara had raised the issue with the Turkish authorities.

Rehn stressed that Turkey should honour the commitments it had undertaken in the framework of its association agreement and open its ports to Cyprus ships.

The incident came just as the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel, holding the EU presidency, had called on Ankara after talks with visiting Cyprus President Papadopoulos, to enforce the EU accession protocol by opening its ports and airports to the Republic of Cyprus.

No attention

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan rudely rejected Schussel’s statements, saying that Turkey did not pay any attention to those who had threatened its EU perspective.

"Pardon the language, but to them we say up yours," Erdogan said addressing a meeting of businessman at the sea resort of Kusandasi.

In Nicosia, acting Government Spokesman Michalis Pashiardis referring to Ankara’s refusal to allow the docking of the Cypriot vessel said that "Turkey cannot dock in the port of the European Union with the high-handedness and the mentality of a pirate."

Immediately after the Mersin incident became known Government Spokesman Giorgos Lillikas said the Government was taking due action towards the Austrian EU Presidency, as well as to the European Commission.


"This act by Ankara constitutes a serious violation, inter alia, of the Customs Union Agreement, which exists between Turkey and the EU," Lillikas said, and added:

"With its stance, Turkey has proved yet once more that it refuses to harmonise itself with the acquis communautaire and is not convincing in its commitment to proceed in its EU course, exhibiting respect for its obligations."

The Cypriot container ship Able F arrived outside the port of Mersin from Italy early on Wednesday morning and remained about 3km offshore inside Turkish territorial waters waiting for its agent to make docking and unloading arrangements.

The port authorities automatically refused entry to the ship and alerted the Shipping Department, which in turn told the Turkish Foreign Ministry about it.

The Cypriot vessel was asked to leave Turkish territorial waters but, according to some reports, the ship authorities insisted on being given the grounds for being turned away in writing.

They met with the refusal of the Turkish authorities and the ship left Turkish waters under the wary eye of patrol boats after it had stayed there for about 15 hours.


According to an AP report, the Turkish Foreign Ministry in a statement alleged the Cypriot vessel had violated standard practice of port approaching presenting a "fait accompli."

Commenting on Turkey’s action, the spokesman of the Greek Foreign Ministry in Athens, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, said it was not helpful.

"Turkeys’ course towards the European Union and the progress of its accession process are judged in accordance with the degree of its response to specific conditions and prerequisites, which mainly refer to a series of agreed EU documents. It is obvious that today’s action by Turkey does not help; far from it," Koumoutsakos stressed.

The Turkish press gave wide coverage to the incident, mostly presenting it as an attempt by Cyprus to force open the question of Turkey lifting its embargo on Cypriot airplanes and vessels.

In his statements to the press, Pashiardis rejected Turkish allegations that the Cyprus Government knew of the intention of Able F to dock at Mersin.


EU Commissioner Olli Rehn said that the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament would monitor very closely Turkey’s compliance with its EU obligations.

He also warned Turkey that in October the Committee would carry out a general evaluation of the situation, in order to verify Turkey’s compliance with all its commitments.

Rehn’s spokesperson, Krisztina Nagy, noted that according to the EU-Turkey Association Agreement that incorporated the customs union, Turkey was obliged to allow the free movement of goods for all EU member states.

"Shipping restrictions prevent those concerned to choose the most economical means of transport, resulting in obstacles being placed in the free movement of goods and commerce in general," she said.

The Able F’s textile cargo was being delivered to Turkish businessmen and the ship had an agent at the port of Mersin.

The Cyprus Shipowners’ Union yesterday condemned the action by the Turkish authorities and expressed support for the measures taken by the Cyprus Government.

They added that, in addition, they would ask for the help of the European Shipowners Union in making Turkey honour its protocol signature.

Cyprus Weekly, February 2006

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