Cyprus ready to veto EU's 'positive agenda' with Turkey, president says

The Republic of Cyprus is ready to veto the European Union’s plans for a positive agenda with Turkey, President Nicos Anastasiades said, citing attempts by Turkey to turn the northern third of Cyprus into a “puppet state”.

The EU’s approach towards Turkey must take account of its attitude towards Cyprus, where the United Nations is seeking to establish a basis to restart talks on reunification between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides of the island, Anastasiades said in an interview with Euronews in Brussels published on Tuesday.

“Definitely, yes,” Anastasiades said, when asked whether he was prepared to veto the EU’s decision, taken at a summit of the European Council in December.

“A positive agenda is adopted when there is positive behaviour,” he said. “When on the contrary, one challenge comes after another, you realise that it would be political suicide if, with my knowledge, I accept a positive agenda that would not include Cyprus. I have no choice.”

The European Council, made up of the political leaders of the EU’s 27 sovereign states, which include Cyprus, is next due to meet on June 24-25. The council agreed in December that the EU’s proposed agenda with Turkey would depend on it showing readiness to promote a genuine partnership with the bloc and its member states and to resolve differences through dialogue and in accordance with international law.

Anastasiades pointed to Turkey’s drilling for natural gas around Cyprus, which is currently suspended, and its stance on restarting United Nations-backed talks to reunite the island, divided since a Turkish invasion in 1974. In initial contacts last month, Turkey said any negotiations must be based on the recognition of north Cyprus as an equal, legitimate state.

“That's something that is unthinkable for the international community as it contradicts all U.N. resolutions without exception as far as the Cyprus issue is concerned. It also contradicts the position of the European Union,” he said.

“I am sure that the (U.N.) Secretary-General will not risk convening another five-party meeting, even if it's an informal one if he does not see there is common ground somewhere,” he said. “If Mr. Erdoğan or Turkey insists that any negotiations to find a solution to the Cyprus problem should start only under the condition that a sovereign Turkish Cypriot state is recognised, you realise that we won't go anywhere.

“In essence, what they are seeking is either the annexation of the northern part of the island or the creation of a puppet state which would be a province of Turkey and its independence would be determined by the degree of Turkish control.”

Turkey says the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) must be recognised as a legitimate state and equal party in the U.N. talks, citing the failure of previous negotiations to create a bizonal, bicommunal federation for the island. The TRNC is only recognised by Turkey.

Cyprus joined the EU in May 2004 after Greek Cypriots rejected a reunification plan for the island in a referendum and Turkish Cypriots supported it.

The Republic of Cyprus is an EU member on behalf of the whole island. Turkey invaded in response to a brief Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece. It keeps about 30,000 troops there.

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