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Politics

Anastasiades Says Turkey’s EU Hopes Should End if Provocations Don’t

It's likely a moot point but Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said unless Turkey, which has occupied the northern third of the island since a 1974 invasion, doesn’t stop drilling for energy off the coast and stop aggressions that European Union accession talks should end.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, by his words and actions, has shown he apparently believes joining the EU, a process that began in 2005 and saw hopes dim more after he purged civil society, the military, and and courts and jailed journalists after a failed 2016 coup attempt against him, isn’t going to happen.

The legitimate government of Cyprus is a member of the bloc but Turkey won’t recognize it and bars Cypriot ships and planes and has defied calls to stop drilling,

The EU has imposed only soft sanctions, fearful to agitate him with worries he would respond by sending to Greek islands more refugees and migrants who went to Turkey fleeing war and strife in their homelands.

Anastasiades told Politico Europe that if Turkey does not tone down its aggression in the eastern Mediterranean, it should no longer be considered a candidate for EU membership but wouldn't pull his support yet.

He said that seismic research and drilling by Turkey in Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone – parts of which Turkey doesn't recognize either – violates international laws protecting sovereign waters.

"Either they are compliant with the terms and conditions of any other candidate country, otherwise they could not be either a candidate or accepted," Anastasiades said, adding that, “We are in favor of having Turkey as a member state of the European Union, we prefer to have a European neighbor rather than to have an aggressive state like Turkey is behaving."

The EU's sanctions have hit some officials and state-run oil company executives but exempted Erdogan and higher officials still able to travel in the bloc and Anastasiades said he would support adding more people to the list – but didn't name Erdogan.

"I believe that as the EU we are left with no other option than to address the whole spectrum of EU-Turkey relations,” he said, adding that stopping accession talks is "one of the steps we can take in order to send a strong message to Turkey, although I'd prefer to have a peaceful solution."

In June 2018, EU ministers effectively froze the negotiations although Turkey can still get EU funding in pre-accession funds and has gotten 3 billion euros ($3.39 billion) out of 6 billion euros ($6.78) pledged so Turkey will keep contained some 5.5 million refugees, including 3.3 million from Syria's civil war under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal that has seen constant violations, including Turkey allowing human traffickers to keep sending more to already overwhelmed Greek islands.

In October, Turkish-Cypriots will go to the polls and, and the occupied territory's leader Mustafa Akinci said hopes for reunification will end if he's not brought back and he won't talk until then.

Anastasiades had offered to give Turkish-Cypriots 30 percent of any potentially lucrative energy revenues after licensing foreign companies to drill in the EEZ but Erdogan and Akinci said that wasn't enough.

They wanted Turkish-Cypriots to take part in the licensing process and when that was rejected Erdogan sent in energy research and drilling vessels and warships to protect them although the winding down COVID-19 pandemic has ceased some activities.

"I'm ready to open an escrow account in favor of the Turkish-Cypriot community, according to the population ratio," he said.

 "And if Turkey stops the aggressiveness, and recognises the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus, I'm ready to accept, even without finding a solution to the Cyprus question, to give the right to the Turkish Cypriots to benefit by withdrawing … any proceeds which might be the result of the exploitation of the natural resources,” he added.

Anastasiades said that “despite our repeated requests for effective solidarity and notwithstanding the measures we have taken at national level, Cyprus remains the top receiving EU member state regarding first-time asylum applications in proportion to its population." 

With the European Commission about to put forward a new proposal on migration, it "remains to see what the northern partners and friends … mean by solidarity,” he added with unity talks dead in the water after they collapsed in July 2017 talks at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montanta when Erdogan and Akinci said they would never remove a 35,000-strong standing army in the occupied territory and wanted the right of yet further military intervention.

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