Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said that the negotiation chapters for Turkey’s EU accession will only open if the government in Nicosia feels that the reason they were closed in the first place has been lifted.
If Turkey wishes to see them open, it should act accordingly, no chapters will open for free, he said in an interview with London Greek Radio (LGR).
Cyprus has in the past objected to the conclusion of certain chapters of the accession process, in particular on human rights and religious freedom, transport, freedom of movement, property rights and others, which are directly related to the Cyprus problem and Turkey’s refusal to give up any territory or remove settlers and armed forces from the north it has occupied since 1974.
Turkey also does not implement the Ankara protocol and continues to impose embargoes on Cyprus-flag ships, most of which are operated by German ship-owners based on the island.
President Nicos Anastasiades has formally submitted a trade-off, by allowing the Turkish-controlled port of Famagusta to open to international trade, in exchange for Ankara lifting its embargo on Cyprus ships and aircraft.
The proposal is part of a set of confidence building measures put forward by the Greek Cypriot side and being discussed in the recently resumed UN-sponsored peace talks, headed by senior diplomats from each community.
Kasoulides was also instrumental in pushing through legislation in the Cyprus parliament that would allow for about 95,000 Turkish Cypriots who have the new Cyprus identification cards to automatically register for the European Parliament elections on May 25.
As nearly 540,000 Greek Cypriots go to the polls to elect six MEPs, the bigger the turnout of Turkish Cypriots could mean the election of the first Turkish Cypriot among the 751 MEPs.
In his interview with LGR, Kasoulides said that “time is of the essence” as regards opening up the fenced-off area of Famagusta known as Varosha to its Greek Cypriot owners, which remains deserted for 40 years and “it would take time for it to become habitable.”
As regards his meeting with the Minister of State for Europe, Kasoulides said that David Lidington briefed him on his recent visit to Turkey and his take on the backdrop on which efforts to reunite Cyprus are starting.
Asked about the ongoing negotiations for the reunification of Cyprus, Kasoulides said that there have been some meetings and others will follow. During these meetings, the extent of differences between the two sides is being evaluated, he added.
The next stage will have to do with an effort to find convergences or to narrow the gap of existing differences, he said, adding that he expects that this will take place in April.
He pointed out that it is important that the two negotiators, Andreas Mavroyiannis and Kudret Ozersay, know the framework on which they are working.
“Our side knows the goal. The solution of the Cyprus issue will be based on a single country, a single sovereignty, one international personality and one nationality, while on the other hand the Turkish side which, up to date, did not agree with the above, now knows that we have the good will to take into consideration their concerns,” he stressed.
Kasoulides said U.S. efforts were important for an agreement to be reached. He explained that the phrase “union in whole or in part with any other country or any form of partition or secession or any other unilateral change to the state of affairs will be prohibited”, included in the declaration agreed by the two community leaders two months ago, was the result of U.S. intervention.
Referring to confidence building measures and in particular to Varosha, he pointed out that the timeframe of when it could be returned is pivotal. He explained that there are a lot of factors to take into account, such as reconstruction and infrastructure work, which take time.
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