Turkey’s minister for EU Affairs Omer Celik said on Wednesday he wondered how such a “large EU was hostage to southern Cyprus”, following a critical report from the European Commission on Tuesday that specifically referred to Ankara’s lack of relations with Cyprus.
In its 2018 report on Turkey, the commission urged Ankara to commit itself unequivocally to good neighbourly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes. It called on Turkey to avoid any kind of threat or action against a member state, or actions that damage good neighbourly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes.
The report followed recent violations of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone by Turkish navy vessels that intercepted ENI’s Saipem 12000 drillship last February while it was en route to a site in offshore block 3 where it was scheduled to drill an exploratory gas well.
Celik said he would write a letter to the commission registering Turkey’s dissatisfaction with the report, which he called “far from encouraging”.
“As for Cyprus, it still lacks principles on that issue. Such a large EU is a hostage to southern Cyprus. What we call neighbourhood solidarity is contrary to the values of the EU,” he said. “There is no question of southern Cyprus making decisions on its own in the region.”
He added: “We are not afraid of criticism, but here we do not see a critique written in objective language.”
In addition to referencing Cyprus, the commission report said Turkey was moving rapidly away from the path of European Union membership, in what was the EU’s harshest criticism yet of what it sees as Ankara’s shift towards authoritarianism.
While couched in diplomatic language, the report blamed Ankara for a broad, collective and disproportionate crackdown after a failed 2016 coup attempt.
The Cyprus foreign ministry on Wednesday called the EU report “the most critical since 2005”.
“The report stresses that Turkey’s actions were in stark contrast to the repeated calls by the European Union for Ankara to respect the sovereign rights of all member states…,” a statement said.
“The European Commission’s report is the most critical issue since the start of the accession negotiations in 2005,” it added.
Meanwhile it was announced on Wednesday that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is due in the north on April 20. Reports said the programme for his visit had not yet been finalised and would be announced later.