Turkey accession threatened by EU report on human rights

Emergency talks have been planned for this weekend to try to stave off the collapse of Turkey's bid to join the EU, as Ankara faces scathing criticism over its record on civil rights.

Leaked excerpts from a crucial report, due to be published next week, reveal concerns over Turkey's drive to match European standards on freedom of speech, and highlight its refusal to open up ports to ships from Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004.

Aware that the criticism will provoke a backlash in Turkey, Finland, which holds the EU presidency, wants to pre-empt the European Commission report by pushing for a deal on the neuralgic issue of Cyprus.

It has invited foreign ministers from the interested countries to Helsinki to try to forge an agreement.

Last night Turkey had not confirmed its attendance. The country has been warned that, if it fails to relax restrictions on Cyprus by the end of the year, its negotiations on EU membership will be suspended.

Finland's plan would open some Turkish ports, but also allow goods from Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus - which is not internationally recognised - to be exported to and from the port of Famagusta under EU supervision. As a quid-pro-quo the Greek Cypriots would be able to rebuild the abandoned resort of Varosha.

If progress is made, the EU might postpone a final deadline for Turkey to accept Cypriot vessels, and it would affect the final wording of next week's report.

Without progress on the issue, Turkey faces acute criticism. Excerpts from a draft of the document show acute concern about freedom of speech and the continued prosecution of writers.

The document says that "prosecutions and convictions for expression of non-violent opinion... are a cause for serious concern." It adds that "cases of torture" are still being reported.

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