Sanctions ruling 'kills hope of united Cyprus': The Turkish-Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, condemns the European Court decision as harassment, reports Hugh Pope

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The Independent Online
NICOSIA - A European court ruling banning Turkish-Cypriot citrus and potato imports will deepen divisions on Cyprus and force Turkish Cyprus into greater integration with Turkey, the Turkish-Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash ,said yesterday.

Mr Denktash said the 5 July ruling by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg had killed off the latest United Nations plans, known as the Confidence Building Measures, to re-unite Turkish and Greek Cypriots. The UN had wanted to persuade the Greek Cypriots to re-open Nicosia airport in return for the Turkish side giving back the resort of Varosha, near Famagusta, whose long beach and big hotels have been left empty since the Turkish armed forces occupied them in 1974.

'It puts a full-stop to everything,' Mr Denktash told the Independent. 'It shows the harassment will continue. I can only give Varosha away once. But the airport can be closed any time.'

He is considering a proposal by a former Turkish prime minister, Bulent Ecevit - the man who ordered Turkish troops to conquer the northern half of the island - to make Turkish Cyprus a semi- autonomous province of Turkey. Foreign affairs and defence would be handled by Ankara, while the current parliamentary system of government would continue to administer the local affairs of the 170,000 Turkish Cypriots. 'We have to take some steps towards integration with Turkey. We have to defend ourselves by doing it tit- for-tat,' Mr Denktash said.

Integration with Turkey is already a fact of life in northern Cyprus. International non-recognition of Mr Denktash's self-declared 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' means that telephone calls, post and air traffic are all routed through Turkey.

The 5 July decision by the European Court in Luxembourg banned all direct Turkish-Cypriot citrus fruits exports to Europe, and treated Turkish-Cypriot manufactured goods as non-Cypriot, exposing textiles, for instance, to a minimum extra duty of 14 per cent.

The European Commission and several European states had for the past 20 years turned a blind eye to the fact that the certificates of origin and crop health issued by the north Cyprus authorities were not stamped by the official government of Cyprus in the south.

But in 1991, 14 Greek Cypriot exporters applied to the British High Court to test the legality of this approach. The High Court referred the matter to the European Court in December 1992, despite a statement by the British Ministry of Agriculture that the Turkish-Cypriot certificates were just as good as the Greek-Cypriot ones.

The Greek government supported the Greek Cypriots, and the Turkish-Cypriot government ignored the court case until too late. Even British and European Commission statements that a ban would not help the Cyprus problem and would discriminate against Turkish Cypriots did not soften the court's opinion that the 'Government of Cyprus' could legally only be the internationally recognised, all-Greek government in the south.

Mr Denktash said the ruling could not be appealed and had immediate effect. Cargoes were already being turned back from European ports, he said. Turkish- Cypriot newspapers said textile orders were being cancelled. About 74 per cent of northern Cyprus' exports go to Europe and Britain is the biggest customer, buying pounds 18m of goods.

The Turkish-Cypriot government is offering subsidies to manufacturers, possibly to be raised from taxes on imports from Europe or from the Turkish treasury which subsidises northern Cyprus to the tune of pounds 130 million a year. But the damage to the Turkish- Cypriots' tiny economy will still be profound.

(Photograph omitted)

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