The EU summit conclusions reflect the spirit of EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s report and highlight the link between the bloc’s relations with Turkey and developments on the Cyprus issue, Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said on Friday.
The minister was speaking to CyBC radio after EU leaders late on Thursday agreed to make good on a 2016 promise to deepen trade ties with Turkey, but also warned Ankara to expect sanctions if it restarts exploration over disputed hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean.
“We call on Turkey to abstain from renewed provocations or unilateral actions in breach of international law,” EU leaders said in a statement following a discussion by video conference, saying they will review progress in June.
The conclusions came days after EU foreign ministers agreed to keep all options on the table regarding Turkey in case recent signs of de-escalation proved unsustainable. Borrell had spoken of milestones, which Turkey had to meet.
One of them, “would be developments in the Cyprus problem and exploratory talks with Greece a second one; Libya is another one and the domestic situation one more”.
Christodoulides said it was important the summit had set out milestones for Turkey, starting with the informal five plus one conference on Cyprus that the UN is convening in late April.
Also important was the June milestone when EU leaders hold their next summit, which will discuss not just the Cyprus issue but also Libya and human rights, he added.
According to the minister, Turkey’s financial crunch is forcing Ankara to turn towards the EU to build a more positive image among investors.
He also considered it important that the conclusions note the EU’s intention to participate in the five plus one conference in Geneva.
The three guarantor powers, the UK, Turkey and Greece take part with regard to the issue of security which concerns them, whereas the EU has a role as regards the internal and external elements of a Cyprus settlement, he added.
Addressing the summit, President Nicos Anastasiades had stressed that Turkey’s de-escalation of its illegal activities in Cyprus’ EEZ should have consistency and continuity.
Political parties gave a mixed verdict on the conclusions. Ruling Disy expressed satisfaction with the clear reference to an active EU involvement in the Cyprus negotiations and said the aim was not to punish Turkey but to break the deadlocks it has created so as to move forward on a Cyprus settlement. “Turkey must understand that it is time for it to take substantial steps both as regards its relations with the EU and also on the Cyprus issue,” it said.
Akel said the statement was a compromise reflecting the different approaches of member states on the position that should be taken vis a vis Turkey. It noted in particular the clear reference that an EU-Turkey relationship based on cooperation and mutual benefit was of strategic importance to the bloc. The party also pointed out that in contrast with the Borrell report, the conclusions do not detail the measures that may be taken if Turkey backtracks, but state more generally that the EU could use the tools at its disposal.
Akel said the EU’s support for a settlement based on UN resolutions as well as its clear statement that it will participate in the five plus one conference were important. But failure to make a reference to the agreed basis for a settlement and the need for negotiations to resume from where they had stopped at Crans-Montana were serious omissions.
Edek said the statement confirmed that the main aim of some EU member states was to safeguard their own national interests and not to protect EU principles and member states. It also showed that in substance what was being attempted was to let Turkey off easily. The party castigated the absence of a reference to Varosha, Turkey’s aggressions in Cyprus’ EEZ and Ankara’s failure to fulfil obligations towards Cyprus as part of its relationship with the EU since 2005.
The Citizens’ Alliance was also critical, saying the EU had again fallen short of expectations as it continues to appease Turkey, relying on wishes for Ankara to cease its aggressive and expansionist actions.
The Greens spoke of a ‘friendly pat on the back’, with the EU limiting itself to urging Turkey to abstain from provocations. Regrettably, Europe has once more disappointed Greece and Cyprus, it added.