EU’s 'tolerance' with Turkey emboldening Erdoğan, says Cypriot president

The European Union's "double standards" and "tolerance" towards Turkey are emboldening the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to disregard international law and risk triggering a new conflict in the region, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said on Tuesday.

The 27-member bloc's political and economic links with Turkey, allow the country to retain its EU candidate status, Anastasiades said in an interview with Euronews, effectively giving Ankara a “diplomatic shield.”

Turkey has long been at odds with EU-member nations Greece and Cyprus, over territorial claims in the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.

Turkey opened accession talks with the EU in 2005, pledging to strengthen its democracy, guarantee rule of law and match regulations governing the economy with those of the 27-member bloc. But the political and economic union froze talks on the chapters of Turkey’s accession following a military coup attempt in 2016, when it strayed further from Europe’s democratic standards. 

"It is not possible for us [the EU] to say that Russia is violating international law, but when international law is violated by a candidate country against other members of the European Union, we pretend that we do not understand the significance," Anastasiades said.

"It is this tolerance that emboldens [Turkey] and creates the risk of a new conflict in Europe,” he added.

Anastasiades said he was "bitter" over the "double standards" of the international community, including the EU and the UN, with regard to Turkey and Russia.

"I am talking about Turkey, which even facilitates the export of products such as Russian steel to Europe via Turkey," Anastasiades said.

NATO member Turkey has denounced Russia’s offensive against Ukraine that has entered its eight month. But Turkey, unlike most other alliance countries, has stopped short of slapping punitive measures on Moscow and is seeking to mediate between the two warring sides in the hope of brokering a peace deal or a ceasefire.

"Let us look at the invitations that the Turkish government is extending to Russian oligarchs, to host Russian vessels, etc., and in general at Turkey's entire behaviour, which, on the one hand, weakens the [EU] sanctions, while on the other hand, it makes it easier for other countries to follow the same course,” the Cypriot president said.

Ankara has come under criticism for working to circumvent Western sanctions against Russia and countries like the United States are growing increasingly alarmed that the Russian government and businesses are using Turkey to evade Western financial and trading restrictions imposed in response to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

The European Parliament, in a Turkey report issued earlier this year, said it could not envisage resuming EU accessions talks with Ankara without significant and clear steps from the country on EU-related norms. 

Turkey has made no improvements on fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law, according to the report prepared by Turkey rapporteur Nacho Sanchez Amor.

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