Thursday

23rd Feb 2017

EU leaders tell Turkey to 'respect' Cyprus

  • Gul: 'This will be a half-presidency leading a miserable union' (Photo: svenwerk)

EU leaders are planning to tell Turkey to "fully respect" Cyprus when it takes over the rotating presidency next year after Turkey threatened to boycott meetings.

"The EU council calls on EU partners to fully respect the role of the rotating presidency of the council, which is a fundamental institutional feature of the Union provided for in the treaty," the 27 countries are planning to say, according to draft summit conclusions circulated in Brussels on Thursay (8 December).

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An EU diplomatic source confirmed that the line refers to Nicosia and Ankara.

The statement comes after foreign ministers on Monday told Turkey to let Cyprus drill for oil in a part of the Mediterranean Sea also claimed by the largely unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). They urged it to avoid "any kind of threat or action directed against a member state" and backed Cyprus' "sovereign right" to "exploit [its] natural resources."

Turkey has said it will not go to any meetings chaired by Cyprus in its role as EU chairman in late 2012 unless the frozen conflict on the island is settled first - a development which has eluded diplomats for 37 years.

"This will be a half-presidency leading a miserable union," Turkish President Abdullah Gul told press last month.

The oil communique already annoyed Ankara, which says Nicosia should share blame for any tensions because it went ahead without consulting the TRNC.

Meanwhile, Turkey's ambassador to the EU, Selim Kuneralp, told this website ahead of the EU summit that Cyprus is playing its own part in spoiling EU-Turkey meetings.

He noted that until Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, Turkish leaders and ministers used to come regularly to EU summits and councils. But when French foreign minister Alain Juppe last week invited Turkey's Ahmet Davutoglu to brief EU ministers on Syria "[EU foreign relations chief] Lady Ashton conducted a number of consultations with member states and the outcome was she did not find a consensus [to let him come]."

He added that Turkey has been asking the EU for the past year and a half to launch a new "structured dialogue" on foreign policy to no avail.

Instead, it gets frequent invitations to align itself with European External Action Service communiques on various topics at too short notice to respond.

"We are asked can you tell us within half an hour or one hour, or if you are lucky, one day, whether you are prepared to align yourself with this text, and it could be any subject under the sun ... It's not very satisfactory," he said.

The ambassador noted that one and a half years after the EEAS was launched, it has still not appointed a director to deal with Turkey, which is currently handled by a two person team - a head of unit and his deputy.

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