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Greece and Cyprus Welcome EU Bid to Re-Engage With Turkey, but Urge Caution

Greece and Cyprus on Monday welcomed moves by Turkey to boost relations with the European Union, but said rapprochement should be gradual and not unconditional. European Union foreign ministers said on July 20 they were ready to re-engage with Turkey, but stopped short of offering Ankara a clear resumption of membership talks.

Turkey has been a candidate for EU membership for more than two decades, but talks stalled in 2016 over the bloc’s concerns over the rule of law and human rights in the country.

The division of Cyprus between its Greek and Turkish Cypriot populations, a source of friction between Greece and Turkey, has also been an impediment.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, whose countries are both EU members, said they welcomed a Turkey-EU re-engagement but that it had to be “gradual,” and, if necessary, “reversible.”

“Those two words should guide us. We can be optimistic, but we are not naive,” Mitsotakis told reporters after meeting Christodoulides in Nicosia, Cyprus’s ethnically-split capital.

The two terms have been built into European terminology over Turkey for some years, reflecting in part the long and convulsed journey of the country in attempting to join the bloc.

Christodoulides said launching a positive agenda with Turkey also implied “positive moves” on Ankara’s part over Cyprus.

“It’s important that our EU partners are also taking the same view,” Christodoulides said.

Cyprus was divided after a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the military junta then ruling Greece. It is represented in the EU by an internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot government.

On-off peace negotiations in the past focused on uniting the island under a two-zone federal umbrella endorsed by the United Nations. In recent years the Turkish Cypriot side has advocated a two-state settlement, rejected by Greek Cypriots.

“Any partitionist thoughts of two states is completely off any agenda of discussion, and I want to be very clear on that,” Mitsotakis said.

As recently as last Friday, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said a resumption of peace talks on Cyprus would be possible only if the Greek Cypriots accepted sovereign equality.

Source : Reuters