Ankara’s attitude turns talks with EU into dialogue of the deaf
NICOSIA – Ankara’s unwillingness to compromise on contentious issues has turned the talks between Turkish authorities and EU High Representative Josep Borrell into a dialogue of the deaf.
Borrell arrived in Turkey Monday for talks at a time when tensions between Europe and Turkey are running high over a slew of issues, including Ankara’s disputes with Greece and Cyprus over energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
Turkey might not recognise Cyprus, but it is an EU member state and a solution must be found, Borrell said after a meeting in Ankara with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Meanwhile, Cyprus and its European Union partners are working to rein in Turkey’s “expansionist policy” in the Eastern Mediterranean amid heightened tensions over an offshore search for hydrocarbons, the island nation’s president said Tuesday.
President Nicos Anastasiades said that the 27-member bloc needs to take stock of how much leeway it will give an “insolent” Turkey that wants to control the region.
Anastasiades’s remarks came a day after Cavusoglu said his country would “reciprocate” if the EU takes measures censuring Turkey for carrying out a gas search in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.
“Unfortunately, we’re talking about an agitator that’s seeking to dominate the entire eastern Mediterranean and place under its control a number of countries that ring the eastern Mediterranean,” Anastasiades said.
“This is incomprehensible and unacceptable not only on the basis of international justice, but also based on customary friendly relations that neighbouring countries should hold.”
The Greek Cypriot government of the ethnically split island has slammed Turkey for encroaching in its waters and economic rights. The EU has rallied to the defense of its member states, Greece and Cyprus.
Turkey doesn’t recognise Cyprus as a state and has dispatched warship-escorted ships to drill for gas in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, including in areas where the Cypriot government has licensed international energy companies like French Total and Italy’s Eni to drill.
Turkey claims almost half of Cyprus’s economic zone and insists it is acting to protect its interests and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots to the area’s energy reserves.
Cyprus was ethnically split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
Only Turkey recognises a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.
Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognised south enjoys full membership benefits.
Cavusoglu, who held talks Monday with Borrell, said Ankara expects the bloc to act as an “honest broker” with regard to energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean instead of expressing its backing for Cyprus’s rights.
Borrell said EU-Turkey relations aren’t “passing through the best moment” and called for increased cooperation and dialogue.
Borrell, who met with Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, told reporters later during a video conference, that the EU supports the positions of Greece and Cyprus in the Mediterranean.
On Turkey’s dispute with France, Borrell said: “It’s not acceptable that between the navies of two (NATO) members these kinds of situations can happen.”
Earlier, Borrell also spoke of the need to overhaul a 2016 agreement between Turkey and the EU.
The deal aimed to curb the massive flow of irregular migrants from Turkey to Europe, but unravelled in late February when Turkey made good on a threat to open its borders.
Ankara, fearing a new migration flow from north-western Syria, said it can no longer hold back migrants who wanted to go to Europe.
Greek forces pushed back, leading to scenes of chaos and violence, the deaths of at least two migrants and hundreds of injuries.
Cavusoglu said Turkey wouldn’t accept a revision of the agreement that would be attached to new conditions, such as concessions on Cyprus.
Last week, France temporarily suspended its role in a NATO maritime security operation after Paris accused Turkey of violating a UN arms embargo in Libya where the two countries support warring sides.
The EU might take up punitive measures against Turkey at an upcoming meeting.