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Davutoglu sees difficulties, will not accept any proposal that turns Turkey into ‘open migrant prison’ (Update 6)

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday he saw some difficulties within the European Union in fulfilling the terms of a deal on migration but said he hoped for a positive result from talks in Brussels on Friday.

“We see there are some difficulties within the EU … in fulfilling these terms (in Turkey’s proposal),” Davutoglu told reporters at Ankara airport.

“We discussed these with (German Chancellor) Merkel on the phone last week and with (European Council President) Tusk when he was in Ankara,” he said before leaving for Brussels.

Davutoglu, who meets EU leaders on Friday to try to finalise a strategy to stem the flow of migrants via Turkey to Europe, also said he would not accept any deal which turned Turkey into an “open prison” for migrants.

“We will not accept any proposal which will turn Turkey into an open migrant prison. Everyone must know that … We hope there will be a good outcome for Turkey, the European Union and migrants,” he said.

President Nicos Anastasiades said on Thursday said he hoped there could be a compromise that would lead to a deal between Turkey and the EU on curbing the migrant flow to Europe.

Answering journalists’ questions on his way to visit the European People’s Party (EPP) office in Brussels, Anastasiades when asked what were the obstacles to a deal, conceded there were difficulties but added that he hoped that during discussions within the European Council later on Thursday, there could be a compromise.

“Of course, Cyprus is not the obstacle,” he said, reiterating Nicosia’s stance that it is up to Turkey to fulfill its obligations before it could open any stalled chapters.

“And it is clear that unfortunately, so far, Turkey has not implemented its obligations under the Ankara Protocol and the Negotiating Framework,” Anastasiades added. However he said there might yet be an alternative “which would give us a way out.”

Quizzed further, he said: “You should wait until tomorrow.”

“Turkey has to open its harbours and airports (to Cypriot traffic) and normalize its relations with Cyprus, something that it doesn’t do,” Anastasiades also told euronews in an interview.

Asked if he would veto any deal which did not take Cypriot concerns into account, he added “Of course…As long as Turkey doesn’t implement its obligations, we don’t have any other choice.”

He later tweeted: “If Turkey fulfills its obligations acc to the AnkaraProtocol & negotiation framework, then there is no problem “, but he told journalists outside the Commission, “but if it won’t, we can do nothing”. Pressed further, he added: “I’m sure our [EU] partners will find a way”.

Anastasiades was to have a brief meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel before the official EU leaders dinner on Thursday night.

He had already met separately with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Dutch PM Mark Rutte, the Cyprus News Agency reported.

Diplomatic source told CNA: “We do not feel pressure on the issue of accession chapters”. The major problem with Turkey was not so much the chapters but also the visa requirements, which number 72, CNA said.

Turkey has legislated 52 of the criteria, but 20 of the more difficult ones were still pending, which must be passed by the Turkish National Assembly.

The same diplomatic source said that for the first time in the official letter of invitation from the President of the Council had made reference to the resolution of the Cyprus problem.

Cyprus has not been subjected to any pressure nor was it ‘sounded out’ in any way in terms of sweetening the deal for the opening of accession chapters for Turkey, Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said earlier on Thursday.

Asked by reporters whether Cyprus had received feelers from other member states such as Germany, which is desperate to reach a deal with Ankara, the spokesman said so far there had been no proposals or ‘sounding out’.  Any such moves would have to take into account the clear position of the government, he added.

Speaking in Brussels ahead of the EU leaders’ summit Thursday evening  aimed at thrashing out a deal that would allow Turkey to do more to stem the flow of migrants to Europe, the spokesman said there was a convergence of views between Cyprus and EU institutions on the terms and conditions for opening any accession chapters.

Christodoulides said the implementation of the Ankara Protocol, under which Turkey is obliged to open its ports and airports to Cyprus Republic air and sea traffic, remained a strict condition for opening any chapter in the accession process.

The spokesman said meetings Anastasiades had both with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday night, and with European Parliament President Martin Schulz early on Thursday had been positive.

Asked if the situation with Cyprus was being used as pressure on Turkey, the spokesman said: “I would not say that the Republic of Cyprus is part of the pressure. The Cyprus Republic is in focus because the opening of the chapters is one of the demands that the Turkish government has forwarded to Brussels.”

“The position of the Republic of Cyprus is clear,” he added. “The start of opening discussions on any chapters for Turkey can only be started with the fulfillment of obligations by the Turkish side as set out in the Negotiating Framework of 2005 or in the Ankara Protocol. Any matter concerning the accession chapters and does not depend on the Cyprus government. It depends solely on Turkey. We are not asking for anything more or anything less so in this context our positions are well understood.”

Christodoulides stressed that Cyprus and Turkey’s frozen chapters were not the only issue on the table in Brussels. There were also the issue of visas and financial aid, he said.

“At this stage all issues are open and there are difficulties in closing them,” he added.

nikaroschultz17

Earlier on Thursday Anastasiades met Schulz who tweeted: “Welcome @ AnastasiadesCY President of # Cyprus , a country deserving all Reviews our attention, solidarity & support act”.

After the meeting, Anastasiades tweeted: “Good talk with @EP_President@MartinSchulz in #EP earlier today #EUTurkey #CyprusProblem #EUCO“.

The Cyprus News Agency, citing EU sources, said that during Anastasiades’ meeting with Juncker, the European Commission President expressed understanding of the Cypriot position that Turkey should not be allowed to open new chapters until it had fulfilled its obligations to Cyprus under the Ankara Protocol and open its ports and airports to Cyprus Republic air and sea traffic.

CNA said Anastasiades was assured that the summit was on the side of Cyprus, not against it.

Officials and diplomats conveyed the message that “the EU will give Ankara much less than what it wants and deviations from the negotiating framework would not be acceptable”.

This appeared to be confirmed by a late-night report out of Brussels, which said the EU that would not be opening chapters but would “prepare” for the decision on the opening of new chapters in Turkey’s accession negotiations with the bloc.

In any case the CNA reported Chapters 23 and 24 could not be opened as Turkey does not comply with the minimum conditions in relation to freedom of the press and judicial system.

According to the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, several senior EU diplomats said there was broad recognition that Brussels shouldn’t pressure Anastasiades right now, not least because of the political risks he has taken in the peace process and because of upcoming parliamentary elections in May.

The Financial Times said the EU was headed on a collision course with Ankara over Cyprus.

European Council President Donald Tusk arrives for a meeting with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at the presidential palace in Nicosia

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Thursday he was “more cautious than optimistic” about prospects of reaching a deal.

Speaking hours before chairing the summit to finalise the terms to offer Turkey on Friday, Tusk said any agreement “must be acceptable to all 28 member states, no matter whether big or small” – a reference to Cyprus’s reservations.

He also said a deal must fully comply with EU and international law.

“I am cautiously optimistic, but frankly speaking I am more cautious than optimistic,” Tusk told a news conference, adding that EU leaders were “moving into difficult talks”.

Tusk forecast difficult talks, saying any deal must fully comply with European and international law, which has been challenged by U.N. agencies and rights groups, and must effectively help solve the migration crisis.

“I don’t think anyone is certain there will be a deal,” an EU diplomat in Brussels said.

Turkey said it did not intend to make new demands at the meeting with EU leaders, a senior Turkish official told Reuters on Thursday.

Should there be new proposals from the European side, Turkey would discuss them, the official said, adding that countries including Cyprus should not be allowed to block progress.

The official also said a visit by Tusk to Ankara this week had not fully resolved issues over the deal.

Juncker said he was “pretty confident” of a deal by Friday.

 

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