NATO, EU call for closer ties despite Cyprus feud

Earth Times (Link) - Deutsche Presse Agentur (February 25, 2010)

NATO and the European Union called on one another to improve their cooperation on Thursday, despite the long-standing blockade to such an improvement wielded by EU member Cyprus and NATO member Turkey. EU and NATO staff work side-by-side in countries such as Afghanistan and Kosovo, but Cyprus and Turkey have so far vetoed attempts to set up a formal relationship between the two organizations, which are based just a few miles apart in Brussels.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on the sidelines of an informal meeting of EU defence ministers on the Spanish island of Mallorca that he found it �a little absurd� that NATO and the EU operate in the same areas without being able to agree a security pact.

Spanish Defence Minister Carme Chacon, the meeting�s hostess, said that now was the �right moment� to set up permanent ties between the two organizations, since NATO is currently reviewing its overall strategy and the EU is overhauling its own one following the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty on December 1.

The two organizations should stop working with parallel structures which duplicate one another�s efforts, and instead try to work in a complementary way, she said.

However, sources at the meeting said that Cypriot officials had reacted warily to the proposals, insisting on their right as EU members to veto foreign-policy moves.

Relations between the two organizations have been strained ever since Turkey invaded Northern Cyprus in 1974 in response to a Greek- backed coup.

The strains come despite the fact that there is an 80 per cent overlap of countries belonging to both NATO and the EU.

So far, the two feuding countries have blocked any move to formalize ties between the EU and NATO, each time citing the other�s blockade as justification.

At the Mallorca meeting, Rasmussen - formerly Denmark�s premier and, as such, a veteran of EU politics - called on the EU sign up to a security pact with Turkey as a way of improving ties.

Any such suggestion would have to be approved by EU members Greece and Cyprus, making it unlikely to come into effect in the near future.