Cyprus on Tuesday ruled out consenting to an expedition of Turkey’s long-stalled talks to enter the European Union, unless Ankara fulfilled its obligations to recognize the island.
Turkey wants its citizens to have visa-free access to Europe by June and to open new “chapters” of its long-stalled talks on it joining the EU in returning for assistance in stemming the human tide of refugees through Europe in one of the worst humanitarian crises since the Second World War.
“I conveyed to (EU Council) President Tusk our position that the Republic of Cyprus does not intent to consent to the opening of any chapters if Turkey does not fulfill its obligations as described in the negotiating framework,” Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told reporters after a meeting with EU Council President Donald Tusk in Nicosia.
Tusk is due to fly to Turkey on Tuesday after meeting the Cypriot leader as he tries to overcome differences between the two that could hold up an EU deal with Ankara to stem migrant flows.
An EU spokesman announced the short-notice meeting in Ankara with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu while Tusk was in talks in Nicosia with Anastasiades, ahead of an EU summit with Davutoglu in Brussels on Friday.
EU leaders will meet on Thursday to agree a common position on the deal, first proposed to them by Davutoglu a week ago. Some praise it as a potential game-changer in the bloc’s problems managing the flow of refugees and migrants via Turkey, but it faces both legal and practical challenges.
Tusk will chair the summit and plans to offer member states a revised version of the agreement by late on Wednesday.
Overcoming tensions between Turkey and Cyprus is key to finalizing the deal. Turkey is seeking concessions from the EU in return for holding and taking back all migrants and refugees reaching Greek islands. But some could be blocked by Cyprus unless Ankara gives ground on long-standing disputes with it.