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30th Jul 2016

Cyprus threatens to block EU deal on Turkey talks

  • Cyprus appears ready to shift the Turkey issue to the EU leaders' summit on 14-15 December (Photo: European Commission)

Cyprus has threatened to block an EU agreement on the fate of Turkey's membership talks if the union does not impose a new deadline on Ankara to normalise relations with Nicosia.

Cypriot government spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis said on Thursday (30 November) that if Nicosia does not agree with EU conclusions at a foreign ministers' meeting on 11 December "we will go back and exercise our right not to permit opening of any chapter of Turkey's accession course," according to newswire reports.

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The tough statement from Nicosia comes in response to this week's recommendation by the European Commission, which proposed to suspend the opening of eight chapters of Turkey's 35-strong EU negotiations book while talks on the remaining chapters could continue.

Cyprus believes that the EU's sanctions on Turkey - in response to Ankara's failure to lift an embargo on Cypriot shipping before the end of this year - should be much stronger.

Cypriot president Tassos Papadopoulos said "We are not satisfied with the decision because we believe it doesn't put any pressure on Turkey to comply with its obligations."

"Effective pressure...can't exist without a time frame for reassessing Turkey's stance so as to convince Turkey that it should comply or suffer other or further sanctions," he said.

The comments deepen the rift among EU member states which are gearing up for tough discussions at the 11 December foreign ministers meeting, with Cyprus' position indicating the issue might need to be shifted to an EU leaders summit on 14-15 December.

At the other end of the political spectrum are states like the UK and Sweden, with London finding the commission recommendation "disappointingly tough."

Meanwhile, Austria is set to join Cyprus in its call for tough sanctions, while the Dutch government is under pressure to do the same with a majority of the newly-elected Dutch parliament demanding a freeze of the entire negotiations.

France and Germany are set to co-ordinate positions in a meeting between French president Jacques Chirac and German chancellor Angela Merkel on 5 December, with Ms Merkel on Wednesday voicing support for the commission line.

Mr Chirac however faces pressure from his main political rival, interior minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy, who told France 2 television "I call for the suspension of negotiations with Turkey...all negotiations."

A commission spokeswoman said on Thursday that the Italian leader Romano Prodi backs Brussels' recommendation which appears carefully positioned between member states' conflicting views on the issue.

Meanwhile, prime minister Matti Vanhanen of Finland, which currently holds the EU presidency, will visit Ankara on Friday (1 December) for talks with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with EU diplomats saying the visit is unlikely to produce a last-minute breakthrough.

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