Turkey signals it won't make new demands at EU summit

Senior Turkish official says that Ankara has no intention to issue new demands at critical EU refugee summit which will be convened in Brussels on Friday

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses the media in Ankara, Turkey, in this March 15, 2016 handout photo issued by the Prime Minister's Press Office.

Turkey does not intend to make new demands at a critical meeting with European Union (EU) leaders on Friday on the growing refugee crisis and sees the chances of finalising a deal as difficult but not impossible, a senior Turkish official told Reuters on Thursday.

Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, told EU leaders last week at a previous meeting that Ankara was willing to take back all refugees who enter Europe from Turkey in the future, in return for financial aid, faster EU entry talks and visa-free travel for its citizens.

Should there be new proposals from the European side, Turkey would discuss them - the official emphasised - adding that countries including the Greek Cypriot administration in southern Cyprus should not be allowed to block progress.

"It will be hard to get a result from this summit, but not impossible. The reason is there are too many actors on the EU side," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the sensitive talks.

"Some countries should not be allowed to exhibit a manner that would block progress," the official said, when asked whether a lingering feud between Turkey and Greek Cypriots was hampering a deal.

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades said on Tuesday, after a meeting with EU Council President, Donald Tusk, that he conveyed that his administration "does not intend to consent to the opening of any chapters if Turkey does not fulfil its obligations as described in the negotiating framework."

EU leaders will meet in Brussels on Thursday to agree on a deal to offer Turkey the following day that would secure Ankara's commitment to a scheme intended to halt the flow of refugees to the Greek islands.

A breakfast is set for Friday with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, where Tusk hopes to finalise the deal that the Turkish premier first sprang on the EU - with backing from German Chancellor Angela Merkel - at a special summit 10 days ago.

A separate official in Davutoglu's office said there was "no hesitation" on the Turkish side about going to Brussels, in response to a question on whether the Turkish delegation would only attend if it was sure of securing a deal.

The first official said a visit by Tusk to Ankara this week had not fully resolved issues over the agreement, but that it had been an "extremely important" visit and that it was vital to keep channels of communication open.  

Speaking hours before chairing an EU summit to finalise the terms that will be offered to Turkey on Friday, Tusk said any agreement "must be acceptable to all 28 member states, no matter whether big or small" - a veiled reference to Greek Cypriot reservations.

He also said a deal must fully comply with EU and international law.

"I am cautiously optimistic, but frankly speaking I am more cautious than optimistic," Tusk told a news conference, echoing Turkish officials that EU leaders were "moving into difficult talks."

TRTWorld, Reuters