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Cable: Turkey used ‘bazaar’ tactics in EU talks

Friday 4 February 2011

The intense Dutch-led negotiations leading to the EU Council’s invitation to Turkey for accession talks were one for the history books, according to Dutch diplomat Pieter de Gooijer in a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

A newly released U.S. diplomatic cable describes all the details of the Dec. 17, 2004 meeting, the final Turkey accession negotiations that ended with a declaration known as the Ankara Agreement.

De Gooijer, who witnessed the 2004 meetings about Turkey firsthand, claimed in the cable three events were especially critical in bringing about a positive decision: French President Jacques Chirac’s push to Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos, British Prime Minister Blair fetching Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan back from his hotel before he could hold a fatal press conference and Dutch finessing of the Council Conclusions text that welcomed and quoted a Turkish declaration on the Ankara Agreement that never really existed.

De Gooijer described the Turkish delegation’s negotiation methods like that of a negotiation for a rug in a bazaar. “If things had run in a straight line, they [Turks] would have suspected they could have gotten a better deal. By the same token, bazaar psychology dictated that Erdoğan appear dissatisfied with the result after the fact as well,” he told U.S. diplomats, according to the cable.

At the beginning on Thursday, Dec. 16, De Gooijer said the Netherlands Presidency delegation met the Turks around 4:30 pm, where the Dutch told them they had to do something about Cyprus. There was an immediate and negative Turkish reaction to signing anything, he recalled.

With this in mind and while the heads of state were sequestered at dinner, de Gooijer said he proposed that Turkey could initial the protocol to the Ankara Agreement. Initialing is not as final as signing, he had postulated.

“It was a way for Turkey to acknowledge that this was where the Cyprus issue stood, that they could accept the text. Following this plan, the Dutch had circulated an annex to the council conclusions, which referred to Turkey’s signing the protocol of Ankara Agreement, that acknowledged the initialing by the Commission and Turkey of the protocol,” De Gooijer said.

“Difficult talks between the Dutch Prime MinisterJan Peter Balkenende, Foreing Minister Bernard Rudolf Bot, Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül ensued, with the Turks eventually rejecting initialing as too much like signing. They never appreciated the subtle, negotiator’s distinction between the two,” de Gooijer said.

The annex was withdrawn Friday morning, Dec. 17. The Dutch fell back to a proposal that Turkey could make a declaration of intent to sign the protocol prior to the actual start of accession negotiations.

De Gooijer recalls a small meeting among Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, Blair, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and Balkenende with Papadopoulos. “The full council was meeting in a nearby room. With time slipping away for a deal, Papadopoulos balked at a mere declaration.”

Finally, de Gooijer recalled, President Chirac said, “Tassos, look; Tony, Gerhard and I all think this is a good solution. We have not much time. I know you will agree.” Chirac reportedly then stood up and reached out for Papadopoulos, saying, “Now let’s go into the meeting.” And with that, de Gooijer said Chirac shepherded a slightly stunned Papadopoulos back to the council meeting. “That is how the EU works in the end, with the big countries ganging up on a small hold out,” de Gooijer said.

De Gooijer said the Turks were quibbling over words down to individual letters in the conclusions text. “Worse, they refused to make the formal declaration as foreseen in the text of paragraph 19, which welcomed it and supposedly quoted from it. By this time, Erdoğan had apparently abandoned the negotiations and was heading back to the Conrad Hotel for an already scheduled 2 p.m. news conference. Balkenende called Blair, de Gooijer said, and asked him to help. Blair volunteered to get in his car and go after Erdogan; some time later, both men returned to the council building for the final round.”

At this point, according to the diplomatic cable, de Gooijer said he proposed that Erdoğan, Balkenende, and Barroso sign the page from the newly issued draft conclusions on which the revised paragraph 19 stood, as a way of acknowledging agreement to its contents and intent. “I just tore the page from my book and drew three lines at the bottom of it,” de Gooijer recalled. “Erdoğan refused to sign, as did Gül.”

De Gooijer said he then pointed out that someone from the political level would have to accept paragraph 19 in such a way that the rest of the council, especially Cyprus, would be satisfied that Turkey agreed to sign the protocol before Oct. 3.

De Goojer said: “Finally Erdoğan instructed his foreign minister to sign on behalf of Turkey; State Secretary Arzo Nicolai signed for the Dutch, and Commissioner Rehn signed for the commission; this paper was then copied and circulated to the council.”

“As for Turkey’s Declaration? It will forever be missing; historians will search in vain for a paper since there never was one, de Gooijer said with a grin,” according to the cable.

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Source : Hürriyet Daily News, 28- 01- 2011

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