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Turkey expects to open frozen negotiating chapters after June – Bozkir (Update 1: adds govt spokesman response)

Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Volkan Bozkir

Ankara only agreed to open Chapter 33 in its EU negotiations in order to avoid creating a psychological problem surrounding the Cyprus negotiations and fully expects the five chapters blocked by Cyprus to be opened in the second half of this year, Turkey’s Minister for Europe Volkan Bozkir said in an interview published on Sunday.

After two days of negotiations on March 17 and 18 in Brussels, it was agreed that EU leaders would open Chapter 33 as part of a package of measures offered to Ankara in return for aiding the bloc in stemming the migrant flow into Europe.

The deal was that preparations would begin for opening other chapters, including those frozen by Cyprus, always having regard to the positions of member states. President Nicos Anastasiades had threatened to veto any move to open any of the chapters during the two-day summit. Turkey agreed to the text of the agreement with the vague phraseology.

Speaking to Turkish media outlet Haberturk, Bozkir was asked whether Cyprus had scored a goal against Turkey at the summit in Brussels as presented in some Greek Cypriot media. “Nobody can score goals against us,” he said, adding that Ankara had acquiesced because Turkey wanted to help resolve the Cyprus issue.

“In order to avoid a [negative] psychology, which would hinder the solution of the Cyprus issue we will open Chapter 33 by June. For the other chapters we expect them to be opened in the second half of the year,” he said.

Bozkir said Anastasiades had told the other 27 EU leaders that if he agreed to open any of the five frozen chapters he might as well “leave his soul in Brussels and send his body back to Cyprus”.

The Turkish minister said there was also an issue with the upcoming Greek Cypriot parliamentary elections in May, which would also affect the climate if Ankara had insisted on its demands. “The plan is to open five chapters after June and within a year we will complete the process of opening even more chapters,” Bozkir added.

Responding on CyBC’s main evening news bulletin, Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said Bozkir’s comments had no basis in reality.

“He heard the public statements of the EU leaders,” said Christodoulides, adding that Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had been insisting “until the last minute” on opening the frozen chapters without success.

“The answer [from EU leaders] was, ‘we can’t’ until Turkey fulfills its obligations to the EU, which includes the Ankara Protocol,” the spokesman said. The protocol obliges Turkey to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot air and sea traffic.

“Davutoglu was told that this was not the answer of Cyprus but the answer from all EU leaders,” Christodoulides said. He wondered why Bozkir had waited ten days after the summit to make such statements. Also, the spokesman said the May elections had nothing at all to do with opening EU chapters for Turkey.

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