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EU Commission urges Turkey to reverse Varosha move

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The European Commission has called on Turkey to reverse its actions in Varosha and “actively” support Cyprus negotiations within the UN framework in its report on the enlargement process.

The enlargement package on the progress of the Western Balkans and Turkey was presented on Tuesday to the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) in Strasbourg by Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi.

The report on Turkey refers to increased tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea caused by “continued and new unauthorised Turkish hydrocarbon exploration activities in the maritime zones of Cyprus and Greece”.

After the European Council condemned these actions in its conclusions in December 2020, tensions decreased at the beginning of 2021.

“Among other steps taken, Turkey stopped illegal drilling activities in the maritime zones of Cyprus”.

As a response, in March 2021, the European Council “stated that provided this de-escalation is sustained and that Turkey engages constructively, …the EU is ready to engage with Turkey in a phased, proportionate and reversible manner to enhance cooperation “.

Regarding “Turkey’s unilateral steps” in Varosha and “unacceptable announcements” made by the Turkish President and the Turkish Cypriot leader in July 2021, the Commission said: “Turkey must immediately reverse the unilateral actions announced on 20 July and all steps taken on Varosha since October 2020 that run contrary to relevant UN Security Council resolutions”.

The Commission also notes that Turkey “is expected to actively support the negotiations on a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue within the UN framework” and EU principles.

The report also said that Turkey “continues to refuse to recognise the Republic of Cyprus” and that despite repeated calls by the Council and the Commission, “Turkey has still not complied with its obligations.

“It has not fulfilled its obligation to ensure full and non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement and has not removed all obstacles to the free movement of goods, including restrictions on direct transport links with the Republic of Cyprus.

“Turkey continued to veto applications by the Republic of Cyprus to join several international organisations, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)”, the report points out.

It also noted Greece and Cyprus’ complaints about “repeated violations and the militarisation of their territorial waters and airspace by Turkey”.

“Turkey must avoid threats and actions that damage good neighbourly relations, normalise its relations with the Republic of Cyprus and respect the sovereignty of all EU Member States over their territorial sea and airspace as well as all their sovereign rights, including inter alia the right to explore and exploit natural resources.”

Commissioner Varhelyi recalled the Council had welcomed the de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean and sent the message the EU is ready to engage with Turkey in a “phased, proportionate and reversible manner”.

“Turkey has not credibly addressed the EU’s serious concerns on continued deterioration in the rule of law, fundamental rights and the independence of the judiciary”.

“Therefore, the underlying facts leading to the standstill in Turkey’s accession negotiations still hold.”