Council President Donald Tusk headed for talks today (15 March) in both Nicosia and Ankara, as part of a bid to finalise terms of an EU deal with Turkey to curb the flow of migrants to Europe, EU sources said.
Tusk, who will host a new EU-Turkey summit in Brussels at the end of the week, will meet early Tuesday in Nicosia with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, an EU source told AFP.
The Polish president will then travel on to Ankara for talks later the same day with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu who is due to attend the two-day summit starting on Thursday, the source added.
With Europe facing its worst migration crisis since World War II, Davutoğlu and EU leaders agreed a tentative new plan at a Brussels summit on 7 March to try to stem the flow of migrants and refugees.
Under the draft deal, the EU agreed to resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey for every Syrian readmitted by Ankara from Greek islands.
The controversial plan is designed to eliminate incentives for migrants to come to Greece by boat.
But Cypriot officials said Anastasiades has reservations, not least as Turkey expects the accord to accelerate its bid for EU membership and ease visa requirements in Europe’s passport-free Schengen area.
The European Council website said Tusk’s visit to Cyprus comes in the “context” of clinching an EU-Turkey deal on migrants.
Ankara does not recognise the divided Mediterranean island’s internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government and Cyprus has blocked six key parts of Turkey’s negotiations for EU membership since 2009, effectively halting the process.
The Cyprus government insists Turkey must first meet its longstanding demands for recognition.
The island has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.
The European Council website said Tusk would “take forward” the proposals that emerged during the 7 March summit and “work out the details with the Turkish side before” the new summit.