23rd Nov 2017

Helsinki tables crisis meeting on Cyprus-Turkey problem

  • Finnish prime minister Matti Vanhanen is keen to avert Turkey EU talks collapse (Photo: EUobserver)

The Finnish EU presidency is organising a meeting between EU, Turkey, Greece, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot authorities in an attempt to prevent a collapse in EU-Turkey accession talks.

The crisis meeting is set to take place on 5 and 6 November in an as-yet unknown location, just two days before the European Commission publishes a key enlargement report critical of Ankara's reform progress.

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The report, due out on 8 November, will highlight Turkey's unfulfilled promise to open ports and airports to Greek Cypriot vessels and note constraints on freedom of expression and religious minority rights, as well as a slowdown in general political reform.

The commission draft text also welcomes a Finnish blueprint for resolving the Cyprus dispute, which would see the EU end its economic isolation of Turkish Cyprus in return for Turkey granting port access to Greek Cyprus, EU officials told EUobserver.

Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul praised the Finns for their "constructive effort" on Monday (30 October), adding that he would prefer his Finnish counterpart Erkki Tuomioja to visit the region instead of holding the crisis meeting in Helsinki, AFP reported.

But Greek Cypriot president Tassos Papadopoulos recently warned his country will not "pay the price" for the Finnish EU presidency's scheme for salvaging EU-Turkey talks in a sign Helsinki will have a hard time brokering a solution.

The Greek Cypriot government is currently blocking direct EU trade with the Turkish Cyprus - situated in the north of the island and occupied by Turkish forces since 1974 - arguing that this would undermine its claim of sovereignty over the whole island.

The issue is expected to dominate the EU summit on 14-15 December, when EU leaders could decide to freeze Turkey's membership talks.

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