Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cyprus: No new deals until Turks recognize we exist

(Daily Sabah) - Greek Cyprus on Tuesday ruled out expediting Turkey's long-stalled talks to enter the EU unless Ankara fulfills its obligations to recognize the country.

Ankara wants its citizens to have visa-free access to the EU's Schengen zone by June and to open new chapters in its long-stalled EU accession process in return for assistance in stemming the human tide of refugees through Europe in one of the continent's worst humanitarian crises since World War II.

"I conveyed to [European Council] President [Donald] Tusk our position that the Republic of Cyprus does not intend to consent to the opening of any chapters if Turkey does not fulfill its obligations as described in the negotiating framework," Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters after a meeting with Tusk in Nicosia.

Recent talks between Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akıncı to produce a federal state with two autonomous entities have been positive and many of those involved have said they expect an agreement on reunifying the island to be made by the end of the year.

Greek Cyprus has been an EU member since 2004. Turkish Cypriots are considered EU citizens even though they live in territory not under the control of Greek Cyprus. Cyprus has been divided since 1974. The stalled negotiations resumed last year following Akıncı's election in April.

Recently, EU Minister Volkan Bozkır said the EU-Turkey deal was the best moment to say that the Cyprus problem was "solvable."

"[It is] more solvable than the Syrian crisis, or the Ukrainian crisis or the Palestinian problem, and there is a real chance that we can see the solution of the Cyprus problem this year," he said. Once the Cyprus problem is solved, the most important, feasible way of exporting natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, where the island of Cyprus is, is going to be transported through Turkey, which is 64 kilometers from the island. It will be an opportunity for the region, the European Union and Turkey, he added. 
Turkey has tried to become a full member of the European Union since 1987, with formal negotiations initiated in 2005. One of the conditions the EU requires from Turkey for membership is a solution to the Cyprus issue.

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