Sweet makers claim desserts in Cyprus row

Published May 13, 2006


By Thomas Grove

Istanbul - Turkey's baklava makers are up in arms over European Union posters presenting their sweet, sticky dessert as the national dish of ethnically Greek Cyprus.

"Baklava is definitely more Turkish than Cypriot," Halil Dincerler, owner of Haci Sayid baklava makers, told Reuters.

The "baklava battle" is the latest irritant in relations between EU-member Cyprus and EU-candidate Turkey, which hopes to become the EU's first predominantly Moslem state.

Austria, holding the EU presidency, served up the culinary clanger earlier this week in a poster for Europe Day showcasing sweets from EU members.

An organiser for the Austrian presidency said the posters had been distributed before anyone noticed the offending dessert and noted a change in orders at some events marking Europe Day.

"Cyprus has other sweets so we served ladies fingers," he said, referring to a fried sweet dipped in syrup.

An aide to Turkey's EU chief negotiator Ali Babacan has promised to raise the baklava dispute at EU headquarters in Brussels, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet said.

Another Istanbul sweets producer said there would be a demonstration on Saturday in Istanbul's historic Sultanahmet district, with more than 200 baklava makers expected to attend.

Cyprus joined the EU in 2004 under its internationally recognised Greek-Cypriot government. Ankara refuses to recognise the EU state and backs a breakaway Turkish Cypriot enclave.

In comments unlikely to sweeten Ankara's mood, the head of the Cyprus Chefs Association disputed Turkey's claim to sole rights for baklava.

"The basis of Turkish cuisine was Byzantine cuisine," said Yiannakis Agapiou, referring to the Greek-speaking empire once centred on Istanbul and which fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

Agapiou said "personally I think baklava is a sweet served in Turkey" but noted "Turkey cannot claim it exclusively as its own. It is made in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, several countries in the region."

Cyprus has been split on ethnic lines since Turkey invaded in 1974 after a short-lived Greek-Cypriot coup on the island.

- Additional reporting by Michele Kambas in Nicosia

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