European Commissioner on Enlargement and Neighbourhood issues Olivér Várhelyi did discuss issues related to Cyprus during his two day visit to Ankara, but there was no in-depth discussion on the matter, according to a source in the Commission.
During his two day visit to Ankara on September 6th and 7th, Várhelyi met presidential advisor and spokesperson İbrahim Kalın, as well as with Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, deputy Minister for EU Affairs Faruk Kaymakcı, Trade Minister Mehmet Muş and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.
Várhelyi reportedly pointed out during his contacts that if Turkey were to apply the current Customs Union to all Member States (i.e. including Cyprus) this could have a positive impact on work undertaken by the Council to modernise the arrangement.
The issue of visa liberalisation was also not discussed in depth. From the point of view of the EU, Turkey needs to do more to fulfil the requirements of the six remaining benchmarks.
Migration issues were discussed in depth, in particular with Çavuşoğlu and Soylu.
According to the same source, Várhelyi’s discussion on the state of play of the EU – Turkey relationship with Çavuşoğlu touched the state of the country’s accession process as well as the domestic situation in Turkey.
Brussels expects Turkey to make concrete and sustained progress in the respect of the fundamental rights, seen as a cornerstone of EU-Turkey relations, the source pointed out.
Even though the Cyprus issue was touched upon during the meetings, no in-depth discussion took place on the matter. The Commission source stressed that the EU’s position on Cyprus is very clear and remains unchanged.
As had been announced before Várhelyi’s two day mission, and reiterated by a Commission spokesperson on Wednesday, discussions focused on overall relations, high-level dialogues, migration, trade and people to people contacts. Pressing international issues, in particular Afghanistan, were a main part of the agenda.
On trade, Commissioner Várhelyi stressed that the EU expects Turkey to continue to take steps to address current trade irritants, and ensure the effective application of the Customs Union to all Member States. This, he reportedly added, would have a positive impact on the parallel work in the Council on the modernization of the Customs Unions.
On migration, the Commission source pointed out that the EU has already put on the table an additional 3 billion euros as a sign of continued solidarity with Turkey to support refugees and host communities in the country.
The EU is committed to continue its support to Turkey in border management, including in its eastern border, the same source added. However, the EU expects that the EU-Turkey statement will continue to be fully implemented as the key framework for cooperation on migration.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Numerous UN-backed talks to reunite the island have failed to yield results.