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Turkey must respect Cyprus’ sovereignty, EU says

The European Union said on Wednesday that Turkey must respect the sovereignty of member states over their territorial sea after the neighbouring country’s announcement that it was reserving areas for seismic surveys south of Cyprus and within the island’s offshore blocks.

In its annual report on countries seeking to join the bloc, Brussels said Turkey supported the resumption of reunification talks between the leaders of the two communities under the good offices of the UN Secretary-General.

“However, Turkey issued statements and engaged in actions challenging the Republic of Cyprus’ right to exploit hydrocarbon resources in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone for the benefit of all Cypriots,” the European Commission said.

The move prompted President Nicos Anastasiades to pull out of the talks on Tuesday.

“The EU stressed the sovereign rights of EU Member States, which include entering into bilateral agreements, and exploring and exploiting their natural resources in accordance with the EU acquis and international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The EU also stressed the need to respect the sovereignty of Member States over their territorial sea,” the progress report said.

The EU said Turkey was expected to actively support the negotiations towards a fair, comprehensive, and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue in line with UN resolutions and principles on which the EU is founded.

“Turkey’s commitment in concrete terms to such a comprehensive settlement remains crucial,” the EU said. “Statements that are not conducive to creating a positive atmosphere in the context of the ongoing settlement talks should be avoided.”

It further notes that despite repeated calls by the European Council and the Commission, Turkey has still not complied with its obligations as outlined in the declaration of the European Community and its Member States of September 21, 2005 and in Council conclusions, including those of December 2006 and December 2013.

Turkey has not fulfilled its obligation to ensure full and non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement and has not removed all obstacles to the free movement of goods, including restrictions on direct transport links with Cyprus.

“There was no progress on normalising bilateral relations with the Republic of Cyprus” and “Turkey has not lifted its veto of Cyprus’ membership of several international organisations, such as the OECD,” the report said.

On the domestic front, the 80-page report reprimanded the Turkish administration for political meddling in the judiciary, saying a response to a government corruption scandal has harmed the independence of the judiciary and weakened civil rights.

Of most concern to the Commission, which helps EU governments decide who to let into the bloc, is Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s struggle for influence over the courts to pursue his political foes. It is linked to a corruption scandal which has swirled around Erdogan’s inner circle.

“The response of the government following allegations of corruption in December 2013 has given rise to serious concerns regarding the independence of the judiciary and separation of powers,” the Commission said.

But Brussels said it still believes more talks are possible, recommending opening discussions on the judiciary and fundamental rights as a way to force Turkey to confront the issue.

Turkey, a member of the NATO Western military alliance, began talks to join the EU in 2005, 18 years after applying. But a series of political obstacles, notably over Cyprus, and resistance to Turkish membership in Germany and France mean much of the accession process is frozen.

As a result of Turkey not having fully implemented the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement, the EU decided in December 2006 that eight negotiating chapters could not be opened and that no chapter could be provisionally closed until Turkey meets its obligations.

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