NICOSIA – No one’s come close for decades, but the newly-elected European Parliament President, Malta’s Roberta Metsola, said the European Union should play a role in trying to reunify Cyprus, split by unlawful invasions in 1974 that saw Turkey seize the northern third.
The EU hasn’t been allowed by Turkey to take part in negotiations, the last round collapsing in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkey and the Turkish-Cypriots said a 35,000 strong army on the occupied side would never leave.
Metsola took over for the late David Sassoli from Italy who passed away and in a speech after assuming the leadership said that, “Europe has a legacy of war, but also of healing. We can put this experience to use in helping efforts to end the separation in the EU’s last divided country – Cyprus – under the auspices of the UN plan.”
She added: “We can never be truly whole while Cyprus remains split,” but didn’t offer any solutions as Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus – a member of the bloc – and bars its ships and planes.
The Turkish-Cypriot hardliner leader Ersin Tatar has rejected any idea of reunification and demanded that the United Nations recognize the occupied territory, an idea that would see an occupying army in an EU country.
She was asked about Turkey’s aggressive stances toward Greece and Cyprus – where it is drilling for oil and gas in defiance of soft EU sanctions, the bloc’s leaders reluctant to tangle with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“It is still the last divided country in the EU. We saw last year just before the pandemic that Turkey started using vulnerable people at the external borders of our Union … that is something the Parliament and the (European) Commission and the Council spoke very strongly with their own voice. And I am sure and I am convinced that this will continue to be the case,” she said, a tactic that has failed.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades tweeted his congratulations to her but didn’t indicate how he felt about her call for the EU’s greater involvement in the intractable problem, an answer to which has befuddled long lines of diplomats and envoys.