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.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 despite repeated efforts under the auspices of the UN to bring the leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities to the negotiating table.
Hopes for reunification were raised in 2002 when then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested a two-part federation with a rotating presidency.
In an April 2004 referendum, the Greek Cypriots rejected - and the Turkish Cypriots approved - a UN-sponsored unity plan. The plan's failure disappointed EU officials, who had agreed to allow Cyprus to join the EU that year partly in the hope that doing so would encourage a solution. In May 2004, the Greek Cypriot-controlled Republic of Cyprus became a full member of the EU.
At their December 2004 summit, EU leaders agreed to open accession talks with Turkey on 3 October 2005. One of the conditions specified was for Ankara to extend a 1963 association agreement with the EU's predecessor, the European Economic Community, to the Union's 10 new member states. This group included the Greek Cypriot state, which is not recognised by Turkey.
In July 2005, Turkey signed a protocol extending its customs union to the EU-10 states, but at the same time Ankara issued a declaration saying that its signature did not mean it had recognised the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey also refused to open its ports and airports to Cyprus, as it claims the EU has fallen short of having direct trade with the unrecognised northern part of the island.
- 17-18 March: Eu leaders hold their regular Spring summit, will meet with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.