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Turkey slams ‘unacceptable’ EU stance on Cyprus, Greece

Turkey slams ‘unacceptable’ EU stance on Cyprus, Greece

Turkey slams ‘unacceptable’ EU stance on Cyprus, Greece
March 23
15:02 2018

Turkey on Friday condemned as unacceptable statements by EU leaders bitterly critical of Ankara's policies towards bloc members Cyprus and Greece, raising tensions days ahead of a key summit.

“The statement that was issued contained unacceptable comments against our country that serve the interests of Greece and the Greek Cypriots,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy told reporters in response to Thursday's EU statement.

EU President Donald Tusk and Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker are due on Monday to hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Bulgarian city of Varna.

Aksoy complained that the EU had backed Athens and Nicosia simply because they are members, “without considering whether they are right”.

“The EU has lost its objectivity on the Cyprus issue,” he said.

The statement by the 28 European Union members meeting in Brussels condemned Turkey's “illegal actions” towards Greece and Cyprus after Ankara's arrest of two Greek soldiers and its promise to prevent the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government from exploring for oil and gas.

Officials attend a lunch during an informal meeting of the 27 EU heads of state or government in Brussels on February 23, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied the northern third of the island in response to a Greek military junta-sponsored coup.

While Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus is internationally recognized, the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized only by Ankara.

Erdogan has warned foreign energy companies not to “overstep the mark” after Turkey's warships blocked an Italian drilling vessel of energy giant ENI off Cyprus in February.

The Greek soldiers were arrested on March 2 for entering a military zone in the northern Turkish province of Edirne and have now been remanded in custody ahead of trial.

“The legal process continues. We expect the EU council to avoid statements which represent interference in the judiciary,” Aksoy said.

The summit between Erdogan and the EU chiefs is seen as crucial in setting up the future framework of Turkey's relationship with the bloc.

Turkey had sought to join the EU for over half a century but membership talks hit the buffers over the crackdown imposed in the wake of the 2016 failed coup.

Some EU leaders have suggested membership is no longer realistic and a pragmatic partnership forged instead.

“Of course this summit is important for us. We are expecting relations with the EU to be energized,” said Aksoy.

(Source: AFP)

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Alexander Ionov

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