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Cyprus

No consent to opening frozen chapters for Turkey accession (Update 5)

Cyprus stood firm on Tuesday, insisting it would not consent to the opening of frozen chapters in Turkey’s EU accession process, President Nicos Anastasiades told European Council President Donald Tusk at a meeting in Nicosia.

“It must be understood by our EU partners that possible acceptance of the Turkish demands, without implementation of Turkey’s long pending obligations would in essence constitute – with my own consent – acceptance that the Republic of Cyprus is, indeed, ‘defunct’,” Anastasiades said.

The meeting came ahead of an EU-Turkey summit on the migrant crisis, scheduled for later this week.

Anastasiades said it was unacceptable for Turkey to shift the burden of the migrant crisis on the shoulders of the Republic of Cyprus.

“I conveyed to (EU Council) President Tusk our position that the Republic of Cyprus does not intend to consent to the opening of any chapters if Turkey does not fullfill its obligations as described in the negotiating framework,” Anastasiades said. “I am convinced that President Tusk understands our position.”

He said he had also underlined to Tusk that at this critical phase of the negotiations for a solution of the Cyprus problem “such a proposal leads me – without my intention – to come to a confrontation with Turkey. In fact, any confrontation with the Turkish government, particularly at this critical phase in the negotiations, is the last thing we are looking for”.

“In this regard, I explained to President Tusk that it is unwarranted, counter-productive and not to mention unacceptable to shift – not by President Tusk – the burden of responsibility for the migration crisis on my shoulders, or on the shoulders of the Republic of Cyprus,” the president said, clarifying that Tusk had adopted an objective stance during the recent European Council meetings,  and during Tuesday’s one.

In his comments, Tusk said he had not come to Cyprus to exert pressure but to listen to the government’s positions ahead of the summit.

The EU’s cooperation with Turkey went far beyond migration, he added, with the current dynamics offering an opportunity to reenergise the relations between Ankara and the bloc.

“But let me be clear in this respect. The European Union is a Union of 28 member states. Cyprus is as important as Germany, France, the Netherlands or any other member state. No third country can ever be more important to me than any of our member states. We should use this opportunity and make sure that all benefit from this new dynamics, also Cyprus,” Tusk added.

“When it comes to accession, I want to make it clear that the rules have not changed. The same strict conditionality applies and moving forward will still require the agreement of all 28,” he added.

Speaking at the EU General Affairs Council ahead of Thursday’s summit Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said the official position of the Republic was that the opening of negotiating chapters can harm the Cyprus issue settlement talks and that the two procedures should not be synchronised.

“Cyprus,” he said, “respects those partners who believe that Turkey plays an important role in the migration issue and therefore accepted the cooperation between EU and Turkey on the matter”.

“Turkey’s demand to open accession funds does not contribute positively to the Cyprus settlement efforts,” he added.

Anastasiades said Cyprus, “as Turkey’s EU closest neighbour”, had always been a strong supporter  of  its accession to the EU, on the condition Turkey fulfilled its obligations in terms of normalising its relations with the Republic of Cyprus as described in the negotiating framework, and the Ankara Protocol.

He said he had conveyed to Tusk that Cyprus fully understood the problems EU member states were facing as a result of the unprecedented  flow of migrants, and in particular the serious problems faced by Greece following the closure of routes to Europe.

Despite the fact that this was in no way connected to Turkey’s accession path, the president said, Cyprus had maintained a very constructive stance.

This included consenting to the opening of Chapter 17 on economy – not one of the chapters frozen by Cyprus – accepting Turkey’s participation at  informal summits on migration, and consenting to the migrant action plan agreed last November.

However, Anastasiades said he had also reminded Tusk that since 2004 Turkey had persistently refused to fulfill any of its obligations vis-à-vis the EU and its member states, including Cyprus, and in fact had written letters to the EU calling the Republic ‘”defunct”. Most recently, in November last year Turkey had reiterated its position that it did not recognise the Republic of Cyprus.

“In view of what I have mentioned, I conveyed to President 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 and the Ankara Protocol,” the president said.

Tusk said he was mandated last week to prepare an agreement between Turkey and the EU on further strengthening cooperation in the migration crisis and was working on the details.

He said the Turkish proposal worked out together with Germany and the Netherlands still needed to be rebalanced so as to be accepted by all 28 member states and the EU institutions.

The objective is to conclude the negotiations Thursday and Friday this week “but we are not there yet”, he said.

One of the issues to be sorted out was the key question of legality and the need to ensure that any new large-scale return scheme between Greece and Turkey fully complied with EU law and the bloc’s international commitments.

Tusk said he had also discussed the ongoing Cyprus negotiations with Anastasiades “which have my full support”.

“I listened carefully to President Anastasiades and reassured him we fully understand that the negotiations are at an important juncture and that all EU actions are directed at facilitating these negotiations,” he said.

A successful outcome, with support from both sides of the island, would give a fresh start not only to Cyprus, but to the whole of Europe and the wider region, he added.

Tusk was flying to Turkey later on Tuesday for a meeting with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Anastasiades is due to meet European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Wednesday.

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