Turkey blocking NATO-EU cooperation on Kosovo

Turkey is blocking plans to enhance cooperation between NATO troops and a future European Union police mission in Kosovo in protest at its treatment by the EU, diplomats said on Tuesday

The 27-nation bloc will take over policing of the breakaway Serbian province from the United Nations later this year if a U.N. plan granting Kosovo effective independence is passed

Some 1,500 EU staff will work alongside NATO’s 16,000-plus peacekeepers and the two bodies want to avoid potential for conflict by setting out clear guidelines for how the two forces will cooperate

But NATO-member Turkey, which began EU membership talks in October 2005, is blocking such moves until the EU gives it more say in its emerging common defence policy, diplomats said

“Turkey is saying that if any further arrangements are required for NATO-EU cooperation in Kosovo, then the answer lies with the EU,” an alliance source said

Turkey wants Brussels to persuade EU member Cyprus to drop its veto over Ankara’s bid to become an associate member of the European Defence Agency, the body set up to nurture EU-wide defence industry policy, diplomats said

It also wants to be consulted more on European security policy, arguing that it is already a major participant in EU-led military operations

Turkish officials were not immediately available to comment

NATO officials confirmed Ankara’s resistance but said they were not concerned that it would prevent the Western security presence from dealing with ethnic tensions which some analysts fear could flare into violence as Kosovo’s fate is settled

“The secretary-general is making every effort to find a solution and we are confident we will find it,” a spokeswoman for NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said

The United States and EU countries want Kosovo’s future settled by a U.N. Security Council resolution laying the basis for its independence by mid-year, but Russia opposes the plan and has hinted it could use its Security Council veto

Formal cooperation between NATO and the EU has long been held back by a rift between Turkey and non-NATO members Malta and Cyprus that has prevented the sharing of intelligence and other operational data between the two bodies

Defence officials have complained that this has stopped the two working on joint initiatives in key areas, notably in the fight againt terrorism

De Hoop Scheffer and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana have recently stepped up contacts, and diplomats say the two bodies work better on the ground than they do in Brussels

But most member countries want to see better cooperation when it comes to Kosovo, alliance diplomats said.

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