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Britain is running short of time to strike a deal with its European Union partners on starting membership talks with Turkey, escalating the risk that any final compromise will not be to Ankara’s liking, claims

With only two weeks to go before the scheduled October 3 start of the accession negotiations, the UK presidency of the EU has yet to resolve either of the two issues that need to be addressed beforehand, says

The first task is to determine the EU response to a statement by Turkey in July that made explicit Ankara’s continuing refusal to recognise Cyprus, an EU member.

The second, more important goal is to agree on the ground rules for the 10 years of negotiations that lie ahead, including whether they should be focused solely on Turkish membership or also on some kind of partnership with the EU.

The fear in London is that drawing up deadlines for improving Turkey’s relationship with Cyprus, whose government, unlike Ankara, did not support a United Nations plan to reunite the island, or setting partnership as a goal of the talks could lead Turkey to give up its plans to join the EU.

“Ever since the UK assumed the presidency in July, their priority has been to make sure that Turkey does not walk away,” says an EU official speaking to “But it’s getting increasingly difficult for them.”

At a foreign ministers’ meeting on September 1, Jack Straw, UK foreign secretary, said he hoped that the EU would agree a common “counterdeclaration” to Turkey’s statement on Cyprus within a week. Instead more than two weeks have passed, in spite of UK claims of “good progress”.

Last week, the Cypriot ambassador to the EU, Nicholas Emiliou, accused the UK of a “colonialist” attitude to the island. On Friday, Cyprus was joined by Greece and the Czech Republic in blocking Britain’s latest proposals.

“Some of the small countries are sympathetic to Cyprus,” said another EU ambassador.

“They think Britain is too worried about Turkey at the expense of an EU member.”