Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has given a few more hints on what an EU agenda for Turkey ought to look like next month, only days after revealing he was prepared wield his veto power if a decision did not deal squarely with Cyprus.
In brief remarks to reporters on Thursday, during his visit to Makarios Children’s Hospital in Nicosia, Anastasiades listed a number of Turkish actions that “do not constitute a positive behavior” that would form a basis for consenting to a positive agenda for Ankara.
“Positive behavior is neither ongoing preparations to settle Famagusta (Varosha) nor tabling a proposal that blatantly violates UN resolutions and overturns the basis for a settlement by seeking a two-state solution,” Anastasiades said.
The president on the ethnically-split island was referring to issues set to be discussed by EU leaders in June, including modernizing the Customs Union, scrapping the visa requirement for Turkish citizens, as well as “all other things that Turkey is pursuing.”
'I think it would be political suicide for me to accept, having full knowledge, a positive agenda that would not include Cyprus, I don’t have a choice'
“I consider it inconceivable on my part to consent to a positive agenda,” Anastasiades explained.
In March, EU leaders made good on a 2016 promise to deepen trade ties with Turkey but also warned Ankara to expect sanctions if it restarted exploration over disputed hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean, including waters claimed by the Republic of Cyprus.
But Anastasiades this week warned that steps taken recently by Turkey did not go far enough to soften the reaction coming out of the Republic of Cyprus.
“The fact that they have suspended for now exploration projects… is not enough, and plans for Famagusta are ongoing,” Anastasiades said in an interview with Euronews earlier in the week, adding that Turkish support for a two-state solution in Cyprus was yet another challenge.
“A positive agenda is adopted when there is positive behavior,” Anastasiades told Euronews.
“I think it would be political suicide for me to accept, having full knowledge, a positive agenda that would not include Cyprus, I don’t have a choice,” the president added.
“Are you prepared to use veto?” the interviewer asked.
“Definitively, yes,” Anastasiades responded.
President addresses Belarus veto last year
Last September, the Republic of Cyprus was on the receiving end of criticism by fellow EU members, after Nicosia vetoed a list of dozens of Belarusian officials that would face asset freezes and travel bans.
The Cypriot government had refused to sign the list unless the EU moved to impose sanctions on Turkey over its violation of Cypriot sovereign rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.
EU’s foreign policy chief at the time, Josep Borrell, had referred to a “high-voltage political problem that the European Council will have to solve,” with leaders agreeing to tackle Turkey against next month.
“We did not use the veto to protect Belarus"
But following the controversial arrest of a blogger-activist in Minsk last Sunday, Anastasiades took time to draw a distinction between his veto on Belarus last year and his plans for Turkey next month.
“We did not use the veto to protect Belarus, we were trying to convince our partners that double standards were not acceptable when it came to violations of international law and human rights,” Anastasiades said.
Cypriot Government Spokesman Kyriacos Koushos said the president “condemned the illegal arrest of the Belarusian journalist and demanded the immediate release of those who have been illegally detained after the forced landing of the passenger plane in Minsk."
Last November, the European Parliament adopted an amendment to a resolution on Varosha, calling on the European Council to impose sanctions on Turkey over the partial reopening of Varosha, the coastal ghost town abandoned since 1974.
Greek Cypriots in the south have condemned actions on Varosha by Turkey and Turkish Cypriots, arguing that re-opening the town under Turkish Cypriot administration was in violation of UN resolutions and an obstacle to peace on the island.
Ankara has challenged the claims and rejected the European resolution, arguing the move came about after decades of peace talks on a federal solution model were unsuccessful.
Turkey is also challenging the Republic of Cyprus’ maritime zone claims in disputed waters off the island, while Nicosia has received support from EU members especially Greece and France.