17th Jul 2018

Cyprus blocks opening of first chapter in EU-Turkey talks

  • Cyprus has made clear it will use its EU veto to pressure Turkey (Photo: European Commission)

Cyprus has blocked the opening of Turkey's first negotiating chapter with the EU, with intense weekend diplomacy expected before a foreign ministers meeting on Monday.

The opening of the "science and research" legislative chapter is scheduled for Monday (12 June) at a meeting of EU foreign ministers with their Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul in Luxembourg.

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The move would mean the first concrete work on one of the 35 negotiating chapters that EU candidate state Turkey has to go through before acceding to the bloc.

As there is no real EU legislation on science and research, the EU intended to close the chapter on the same day - Monday.

But Cyprus at a meeting of member states' ambassadors on Friday (9 June) fiercely resisted the closing of the chapter, demanding political concessions from Ankara first.

Diplomats said Nicosia wants to see progress on Turkey ending its continued non-recognition of Cyprus and its blockade of Cypriot shipping and air traffic.

Weekend diplomacy

"The Austrian EU presidency regrets that we did not reach a unanimous agreement in Coreper [member states permanent representatives committee]," said an Austrian spokesman.

"We stand ready for further negotiations in order to solve this issue, also over the weekend," said the spokesman. "The topic will now be handed over to foreign ministers on Monday."

A compromise text on the chapter prepared by Vienna contained a reference to the EU's 21 September statement, which requires Turkey to recognise EU member state Cyprus, as well as open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels and planes

Nicosia has now made clear that if Ankara makes no progress in meeting these demands, it could veto the opening or closing of any chapter in Turkey's EU entry talks.

The starting and finishing of each of the 35 legislative chapters requires the unanimous consent of EU member states.

Croatia gets green light

Diplomats said, however, that Cyprus may, after intense weekend diplomacy, back down on Monday, amid Turkish media reports that Mr Gul could snub the EU by boycotting Monday's meeting.

Meanwhile, the row is unlikely to affect the membership bid of Croatia, which received the green light from EU ambassadors to open and close the science and research chapter on Monday.

Zagreb could enter the EU around 2009-2010, while 2015 is seen as a more likely possible accession date for Ankara.

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EU foreign ministers will on Monday try to defuse a major row over Turkey, with Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul threatening to stay away from a Luxembourg meeting if Cyprus keeps blocking its EU entry talks.

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