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Cyprus

EU agrees on Turkey’s commitments, president insists

German Chancellor Angela Merkel shakes hands with President Nicos Anastasiades at the EPP in Madrid

By a Staff Reporter
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker both agree that EU-candidate countries must abide by their commitments to the bloc and adhere to EU law, President Nicos Anastasiades said on Thursday.
“More to the point, and as regards the decisions of the European Council of September, it is clear that Turkey is expected to meet its Cyprus-related obligations, which would allow the opening of the accession chapters of concern to Turkey,” Anastasiades commented.
“Not only did Mrs Merkel and Mr Juncker not disagree, but rather they agreed that, for the EU, it is absolutely a matter of principle that European values and the EU acquis are respected, as also the commitments made by any candidate state interested in acceding to the bloc or to benefit from EU policies.”
He was speaking to the media from Madrid, where he was attending the European People’s Party (EPP) summit, discussing the ongoing migration crisis in Europe. The president held separate meetings with Merkel and Juncker on the summit’s sidelines.
Though this left wide open the question whether Anastasiades secured anything tangible from his counterparts, his comments were evidently targeted at the audience back home wary that Nicosia may bow to German pressure and consent to the opening of ‘chapters’, or policy areas, relating to Turkey’s accession bid.
Last Sunday, while on a visit to Istanbul, the German chancellor said she would push Turkey’s EU accession forward in exchange for help in tackling the EU migrant crisis by opening some chapters that are currently blocked by Cyprus.
At a joint news conference with Turkey’s prime minister, Merkel said Germany “is ready this year to open Chapter 17 (economic policy), and make preparations for 23 and 24. We can talk about the details,” she added.
Chapters 23 and 24 are part of the eight blocked by Cyprus. Nicosia’s long-standing policy has been to veto these chapters until Turkey opens its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot sea and air traffic.
Merkel’s remarks prompted a response from Nicosia, saying it would not withdraw its opposition to Turkish accession negotiations with the EU, saying the reasons it had blocked chapters in the first place remained valid.
In his speech at the EPP, Anastasiades recapped recent developments in the Cyprus peace talks, noting that Turkey “holds the most critical link to the puzzle of a solution to the Cyprus problem”.
“In this respect, I am adamant that a solution to the Cyprus problem will benefit not only Cyprus and its people, including our volatile region, but also EU-Turkey and EU-NATO relations. We do hope and expect that Turkey will rise to the challenge.”
Also on Thursday, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides told MPs here the government could consent to the opening of the energy chapter (17) for Turkey.
Opposition to the specific chapter comes from France, not Cyprus, he added.
The only time that Nicosia opposed the opening of Chapter 17 as well was during the incursion of a Turkish seismic vessel in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone.
Once that incident was over and the vessel withdrew, the chief diplomat said, Cyprus waived its objections to the opening of Chapter 17.

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