NICOSIA – With Turkish warships parked off the island’s coast trying to block foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas, Cyprus’ legitimate government said it was satisfied the European Union – which has no military – has asked Turkey to be a better neighbor.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides lauded that approach in a report by the European Union’s General Affairs Council, repeating similar entreaties and pleas, all of which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ignored and with his hand now strengthened after winning re-election in snap polls he called that will see him gain near-dictatorial powers.
Christodoulides said with the EU set next year to open accession talks with Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that Turkey – which has been negotiating entry for 13 years – should understand a conciliatory approach works better, Kathimerini said.
“Cyprus supports the full membership of Turkey into the European Union,” said the minister, provided Turkey fulfills all its obligations toward Cyprus – which Erdogan refuses to recognize while barring its ships and planes.
Talks to reunify the island divided since an unlawful 1974 invasion that saw Turkey occupy the northern third it still holds today fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would keep an army there forever and wanted the right to militarily intervene when they wanted.
With so many obstacles keeping Turkey out of the EU, Chrisodoulides said others hurting its chances are the abysmal human rights record, Erdogan clamping down on courts and jailing journalists and purging the military and civil society in the wake of a failed coup attempt against him in July, 2016.
“The Council continues to expect Turkey to unequivocally commit to good neighborly relations, international agreements and to the peaceful settlement of disputes, having recourse, if necessary, to the International Court of Justice,” said the report.
The EU ministers also said Turkey should stop taking a hard line in the reunification talks and that, “Turkey must avoid threats and actions that damage good neighborly relations, normalize its relations with the Republic of Cyprus and respect the sovereignty of all EU member-states over their territorial sea and airspace as well as all their sovereign rights, including … the right to explore and exploit natural resources, in accordance with EU and international law.”
But the EU – which has both condemned and lauded Erdogan and is reliant on him to keep human traffickers from flooding Greek islands with refugees and migrants who went to Turkey in flight from war and strife in the Middle East – also denounced the failed coup.
“However, the disproportionate scale and scope of measures taken in its aftermath raise serious concern,” the report noted, with Erdogan saying he’d like to bring back the death penalty that is banned in EU countries.
After all that, the report said Turkey is moving further away from the EU with its chances of gaining entry growing less under Erdogan’s rule.
“Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing and no further work towards the modernization of the EU-Turkey Customs Union is foreseen.”