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17th Apr 2024

Cyprus calls for EU support against Erdoğan

  • Nikos Christodoulides with European Parliament president Roberta Metsola (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)
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Cyprus and Turkey have traded harsh words on their frozen conflict, in a sign recent elections on both sides changed little.

The "open wound" of Turkey's 50-year old occupation of northern Cyprus formed the centrepiece of Cypriot president Nikos Christodoulides' speech at the European Parliament on Tuesday (13 June).

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He spoke after Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Turkish-occupied Cyprus one day earlier.

Erdoğan went there on his first foreign trip since re-election earlier this month, called for international recognition of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and made thinly veiled military threats against Greece.

"If there is to be a return to the negotiating table, the way to do this is through recognition", he declared.

Cyprus, the UN, and the EU back a negotiated reunification instead.

Christodoulides also complained Erdoğan was letting migrants cross the green line to pressure the EU to see things his way.

"Over 90 percent of migrants applying for asylum have departed from Turkey ... we know precisely the paths they've taken," the Cypriot said.

He called for the appointment of a "high-level European politician" to act as an EU special envoy on the Cyprus conflict.

And he described Turkey as a "potential spoiler" of regional peace due to its gas and oil drilling in Cyprus' waters.

Christodoulides spoke in the plenary chamber in Strasbourg three months after being elected.

MEPs from the main centre-right, centre-left, liberal, and Green groups voiced strong support, in a sign of the European political mood.

"Erdoğan must stop playing imperial games and come to his senses," German centre-right group leader Manfred Weber said.

"Europe does not respond to Erdoğan's blackmail," he added.

The liberals spoke of Turkey's "violations of international law". The Green group called the occupation a "plague".

But if the Greens backed Christodoulides on Turkey, they also criticised him on immigration.

The Cypriot leader had earlier said he would welcome Ukrainian refugees for as long as Russia's war went on, but he highlighted the need for faster deportations of failed asylum seekers coming via Turkey.

"We can't welcome the entire humanity here, but Europe also has a responsibility toward asylum seekers," Belgian green MEP Philippe Lamberts said.

"We can't be just a fortress against the rest of the world," he said in Strasbourg on Tuesday.

Christodoulides spoke out against Russian aggression in Ukraine in strident terms.

"We'll never allow border changes stemming from violence and war," he said, speaking of Russian annexation of Ukrainian regions.

Cyprus' ruling elite used to have close ties with the Kremlin before Russian president Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine last year.

It also hosted Russian billionaires' offshore firms and sold EU citizenship to thousands of Russian VIPs in a, now-defunct, 'golden' EU-passport scheme.

"There's this music of dirty money hovering around Cyprus, these golden passports granted to guess who? Russian oligarchs," Lamberts said.

The UK and US recently sanctioned several Cypriots for Russia sanctions-evasion.

But Christodoulides didn't reply to Lamberts' invitation to promise cleaning house.

This story was corrected on 14 June to say Turkey's occupation of northern Cyprus began 50 years ago.

Opinion

Ghost town haunts future of Cyprus

One ghost town symbolises Cyprus' plight. Varosha, a Greek-Cypriot city in the occupied district of Famagusta on the east coast, has been cordoned off by the Turkish military since 1974. This is why I never saw my mother's home before.

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