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Cyprus reiterates stance on Turkey-EU deal

March 15, 2016

The Cypriot government has threatened to block a proposed EU-Turkey deal on refugees. Its opposition comes in reaction to Ankara's long-standing refusal to recognize Greek sovreignty of the island.

Zypern Donald Tusk und Nicos Anastasiades
Image: Reuters/Y. Kourtoglou

Cyprus reiterated its opposition to Turkey being granted visa-free access to the EU on Tuesday. The measure is due to come into effect by June by June. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades also said Nicosia would not back the bloc reopening EU "chapter" negotiations with Ankara.

"I conveyed to [EU Council] President [Donald] Tusk our position that the Republic of Cyprus does not intend to consent to the opening of any chapters if Turkey does not fulfill its obligations as described in the negotiating framework," Anastasiades said after a meeting with the EU Council president on Tuesday.

Nicosia has repeatedly refused to accept any demands from Turkey until Ankara recognizes the Cypriot government and opens its ports and airports to Cypriot traffic.

Divided island

The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup, seeking union with Greece.

Peace talks to resolve the Cyprus issue are underway between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, but Turkey, which has 30,000 troops in northern Cyprus, remains central to any peace accord. Ankara's support would be in return for assistance in stemming the flood of refugees into Europe. Last year saw the arrival of more than 1.2 million asylum seekers in Europe - the biggest influx since the Second World War.

Zypern Altstadt in Nicosia
In the Cyprus capital of Nicosia, a wall divides the north from the southImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/P. Karadjias

EU and Turkish leaders agreed last week to a tentative proposal, including the return to Turkey of all migrants landing in Greece. For each Syrian refugee returned, the EU agreed to take one from a Turkish camp and resettle them in Europe. This is designed to eliminate incentives for migrants to come to Greece by boat.

Cyprus' refusal to accept the proposed "migrant-swap" would effectively block the largest diplomatic push yet to ease Europe's burden of accommodating hundreds of thousands of refugees, most of whom enter the EU through Turkey.

EU leaders are due to meet on Thursday and Friday, where they hope to agree a common position on the deal between the EU and Turkey. Tusk reportedly plans to offer member states a revised version of the agreement by late on Wednesday.

ksb, jh/kms (Reuters/AFP/dpa)