Tuesday

28th Feb 2017

Merkel warns Turkey on 'very, very serious situation'

German chancellor Angela Merkel has issued a stark warning to Turkey saying there will be no "business as usual" in Ankara's EU membership talks if it continues to be defiant on the Cyprus issue.

In an interview with Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Monday (6 November), Ms Merkel said that if Ankara continues to refuse to open its ports and airports to trade from Cyprus – as agreed with the EU in the so-called Ankara protocol – it risks a crisis in its accession negotiations with Brussels.

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  • The Bosphorus seen from space: the waterway is all that divides Turkey from mainland Europe, but the political gap is widening (Photo: wikipedia)

"We need the implementation of the Ankara protocol on the freedom of movement of goods also with Cyprus. Otherwise, a very, very serious situation arises regarding the continuation of the accession talks," the chancellor said.

"I appeal to Turkey that it does everything in order not to end up in such a situation and in order not to lead the European Union into such a situation," she added.

The comments come two days before the release of a key European Commission report on Wednesday which could recommend a partial freeze of the membership talks – a move which Ms Merkel indicated she would support if Turkey continues to ignore the EU's demands.

"In that case the EU cannot just continue like that. Turkey needs to know: a simple ‘business as usual' is no option if there is no movement in the area of the Ankara protocol."

The Wednesday report is also set to criticise curbs on free speech - especially article 301 of the Turkish penal code against "insulting Turkishness" - and human rights standards in relation to prisoners, ethnic and religious minorities, women and trade unions, the BBC says.

Meeting cancelled

The German chancellor's strong words follow last week's cancellation of a last-ditch meeting which was aimed at forging a breakthrough between Turkey and Cyprus before Wednesday's commission report.

The Finnish EU presidency called off the meeting, due to start on Sunday, following Turkey's anger that Greece would not be attending the talks.

The leader of the Turkish Cypriots, Mehmet Ali Talat, also criticised Helsinki for not involving the UN, amid Finnish plans for a trade-off solution which would see an ending of the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriot North of the island in return for Turkey implementing the Ankara protocol.

Pandora's box

The Finnish-proposed link between the Ankara protocol and the lifting of the isolation of Turkish Cypriots has opened a Pandora's box of demands by both sides of the Mediterranean island, divided since 1974 along a UN-monitored line.

Now that the issue is likely to remain unsolved ahead of the commission report on Wednesday, critical passages in the report are likely to fuel calls by EU capitals for a partial or even complete halt of Ankara's accession negotiations before the end of the year.

EU leaders are set to find the issue on their plate at a summit in December, with every single member state - including Cyprus - able to veto the opening or closing of any new chapter in Turkey's EU talks.

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