In a meeting with the European Council President Charles Michel on Wednesday, the President of the Republic of Cyprus expressed hope that EU member states will show a united front during next week’s extraordinary European Council summit on Turkey.
In statements after the meeting, Anastasiades said Michel’s visit comes at a particularly crucial time, in the midst of ongoing Turkish provocations in the eastern Mediterranean region, and a day after Turkey’s extension until October 14 of a Navtex for drilling activities in the Cyprus EEZ, all while a number of initiatives are struggling to foster de-escalation.
“Your presence in Cyprus today practically shows the strong concern of the European Union for all that is happening in the eastern Mediterranean and the decisive contribution it wishes to make for their resolution, so that peace and security can prevail in the region,” Anastasiades said.
The Cyprus President said he thoroughly briefed the EC President on recent developments, with the two exchanging notes on efforts being made to end unlawful actions and to de-escalate tensions.
The discussion mainly revolved around the recent joint decisions taken by EU Foreign Ministers, but also by the seven leaders who met at the MED7 summit last week, in view of the emergency European Council summit on Turkey to take place next week in Brussels.
Michel briefed Anastasiades on his ongoing discussions with Turkey and EU leaders, with both agreeing on the need for decisive action on the part of the EU toward establishing conditions of stability in the region and remaining focused on ensuring that international and maritime law are respected.
“Respect for the sovereignty of all member states should remain a rule that no one can ignore or scorn,” Anastasiades said, stressing the need for unity during the upcoming European Council summit.
“I reiterated to President Michel that Cyprus underlines the need to remain focused on the use of all means we have at our disposal, avoiding potential double-standard approaches,” Anastasiades said, adding that as long as there are illegal actions against member states, the EU's response should be immediate.
On his part, Michel stressed the EU’s solidarity with Cyprus, “which is facing very serious problems and concerns.”
“We have been following the worrying developments in the eastern Mediterranean for the last month and that is why we do not want this issue to remain as an issue concerning Greece and Cyprus, but also the rights of all the EU and that is why we have decided on 24-25 September in Brussels, at the highest level of the EU, to conduct a strategic dialogue on our future actions for this part of the Mediterranean, including Turkey. I believe that we really need to be absolute in terms of respecting the rights of all EU states and of course the interests and rights of Cyprus. Of course, these interests are based on EU principles,” Michel said.
He added that "only through dialogue can we make progress on de-escalation and have common goals for respecting international law,” stressing that EU solidarity is not limited to words but also means that actions “that must be taken in an intelligent way in order to achieve the best results.”
The discussion also touched on Turkey’s announced plans to enter the fenced-off town of Varosha, Anastasiades said, noting that he requested the EU’s support in preventing any illegal actions there.
Anastasiades also said that he called for joint efforts for the resumption of talks on the Cyprus Problem, on the basis of UN Resolutions, and EU values and principles. “We believe that only a comprehensive solution and unification will permanently ensure peace, stability and security and bring prosperity to all the people of this country.”
The Cyprus President said he also raised the issue of migration, as “Cyprus, as a front line country, has been for several years been called to deal with an unprecedented surge in migrant flows, which mainly and methodically arrive from Turkey”.
Increased migration flows are testing Cyprus’ infrastructure, economy, and demographics, Anastasiades said, noting that the number of asylum seekers amount to 3.8% of the Republic of Cyprus’ population. “An attempt to alter the demographic character, as has happened in the occupied territories, a methodical attempt by Turkey to force a similar demographic change in the areas controlled by the state,” Anastasiades said.
“At the same time, the European Union, in my view, is being blackmailed by Turkey through 'instrumentalized' flows of refugees and migrants, while the situation in the EU is deteriorating due to Turkey’s refusal to cooperate and meet its European obligations to the Republic of Cyprus, including the Readmission Agreement. This is, of course, something that will also be discussed at the next European Council,” Anastasiades added.
The two agreed that a more effective approach to immigration for font-line countries is needed, Anastasiades said, based on the principle of solidarity and a fair sharing of responsibilities and burdens.
Referring to the issue of migration, Michel said that "it is a challenge for the EU and an issue that concerns the world and before coming to Cyprus I went to Lesvos. There are really very serious problems.”
Michel referred to the EU’s upcoming migration pact, which will be presenting in the coming days, noting that dialogue will be needed among member states.