The Greek Cypriot administration said on Monday it would uphold its right of veto in the European Union in order to block Turkey’s membership bid after Turkey and EU leaders agreed to “re-energise” accession talks last week.
EU leaders promised to ease the process for Turkey to become an EU member in return for Turkey’s help in tackling the refugee crisis, the worst experienced in Europe since World War II.
Nearly half a million people fleeing war and poverty from different parts of the world have entered Europe this year alone, taking a risky sea voyage across the choppy waters of the Mediterranean which have claimed the lives of thousands.
Many of the refugees are Syrians escaping their war-torn country who seek to enter Europe by crossing the Aegean from Turkey into Greece before moving on to richer, northern European nations.
However, the Greek Cypriot administration vowed to block Turkey’s bid until what it calls a Turkish “occupation” of northern Cyprus is ended.
"The reasons they [the negotiations] were frozen have not ceased to exist," Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told Greek state broadcaster NET, adding, "As things presently stand, we cannot give our consent [to their resumption]."
Turkey has maintained a military presence in the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) since 1974 after exercising its right as a guarantor of peace on the island in accordance with the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, which was signed with Britain and Greece.
The military intervention came after a coup led by the Greek junta overthrew the island’s government in a bid to unite Cyprus with Greece.
During the two-month campaign that started in July 1974, Turkey secured the northern third of the island which became a safe haven for Turkish Cypriots who had been ousted from the previously joint government with the Greek Cypriots in 1963.
After failing to make progress in ending the standoff, Turkish Cypriots declared the independence of the TRNC in 1983, but only received recognition from Turkey. Pakistan and Bangladesh also briefly recognised the Turkish Cypriot state, but later retracted their recognition due to international pressure.
At the same time, Turkey refuses to recognise the internationally accepted “Republic of Cyprus,” an EU member since 2004, until a peace deal guaranteeing the rights of Turkish Cypriots is agreed.
In order to become an EU member, Turkey must comply with 35 chapters, six of which have been blocked by the Greek Cypriot administration.
Peace talks between the Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots have thus far failed to reunite the two communities, but talks were revived in April after a seven-month standoff over offshore gas exploration being undertaken by the Greek Cypriot administration.
The Greek Cypriot side had initially pulled out of talks in October 2014 after Turkey sent a seismic vessel with the agreement of the TRNC government to search for gas reserves off the island’s southeastern coast in response to Greek Cypriot efforts to do the same.
However, the suspension of exploration by the Greek Cypriot side in April, immediately followed by the withdrawal of the Turkish ship, allowed talks to resume.