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MEPs say Turkey-EU relations affected by Cyprus, Ankara sends back progress report over Armenian reference

MEPs on Thursday welcomed the ‘considerable progress’ in the Cyprus reunification talks, yet at the same time stressed that non-settlement of the Cyprus issue affects the development of EU-Turkey relations.

In its progress report on Turkey, the European Parliament “pledges its support for the evolution of the Republic of Cyprus into ‘a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality between the two communities and equal opportunities for all its citizens’.”

The reference to ‘the evolution of the Republic’ is likely to spark an internal debate as to whether it means the ‘evolution and continuance of the Republic’ or its ‘evolution into a new entity’- the hated ‘virgin birth’ scenario.
MEPs urged both parties to implement all agreed measures without further delay, emphasising that non-settlement of the Cyprus issue affects the development of EU-Turkey relations.
A resolution on the report was passed by 375 votes to 133, with 87 abstentions.
Speaking at a news conference in Austria, Ankara’s European Union Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir said regional energy cooperation was a factor helpful to resolving the Cyprus problem.
The best route for Cypriot gas to European markets was through Turkey, he noted.
“Turkey is 40 miles from Cyprus, whereas Crete is 500 miles,” Bozkir said.
Turkey does not recognise Cyprus and has failed to implement its EU obligations to normalise relations with the Republic, which has frozen a number of its negotiating chapters. The EU however in striking a deal with Ankara over the migrant crisis is preparing to open new chapters.

The opening of chapters 23 and 24 would contribute substantially to the renewal of Turkey`s commitment to reforms in the areas of fundamental rights and freedoms, the European Commissioner responsible for Enlargement, Johannes Hahn told MEPs on Wednesday during the debate on Turkey`s progress report.

Hahn said the Commission was preparing a proposal to the Council to start the accession negotiations with Turkey on economic and financial issues (Chapter 33), adding that they were also preparing for the opening of new chapters concerning the fundamental rights, justice, freedom and security.
He stressed however that the preparations were not prejudging the position of Member States and are in line with the Negotiating Framework.

At the same news conference, the Turkish minister said his government rejected the European Parliament’s progress report due to a reference to the disputed 1915 massacre of Armenians.
He said Turkey considers the report as null and void and that the report would be sent back to the European Parliament.
Although Turkey accepts that many Armenians died in clashes with Ottoman soldiers, it disputes that mass killings occurred amounting to genocide.
This year’s report focused on Turkey’s cooperation with the EU on the refugee crisis. MEPs praised Turkey for hosting the largest refugee population in the world, and noted that the country remains a “key strategic partner for the EU.”
But they said also that EU-Turkey cooperation on migration should be uncoupled from the EU accession negotiating process.

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