Exclusion of Turkish troops in Cyprus off the table, EU Minister says

The proposal excluding the presence of Turkish troops in Cyprus is out of question, EU Minister Ömer Çelik said Tuesday, as he criticized Greek Cypriots for blocking 14 negotiation chapters in Turkey’s EU accession process.

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels on the sidelines of the Turkey-EU Joint Consultative Committee meeting, Çelik highlighted that Turkey has always had a determined stance to find a permanent solution to the Cyprus issue.

“The proposal excluding the presence of Turkish troops on the island is off the table,” the EU minister said, adding that past experience shows Turkish troops need to be on the island for the security of the island as a whole. He noted that holding negotiations with an attitude categorically excluding Turkish troops on the island was out of question.

Turkey, as a guarantor power, sent troops to the Eastern Mediterranean island in 1974 in response to violence against Turkish Cypriots following a Greek Cypriot-led coup.

The island has been divided into two parts with a Turkish Cypriot state in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south since then.

The official status of the island remains unresolved.

Regarding Turkey’s EU accession, Çelik said that the bloc needs to review its stance regarding the country’s membership.

“The EU should comprehend the reasons behind Turkey’s anti-terror fight amid a difficult period in the region, ensure visa-free travel and support and speed up its accession process,” Çelik said, as he highlighted the necessity for providing Turkey with an assurance regarding the issue. He reminded that both sides have reached an agreement on proceeding with the readmission deal and visa-free travel, noting that visa liberation has been granted to many countries who are not even part of the enlargement.

“Visa liberalization is a necessity that will also produce positive results regarding the business sphere and will psychologically calm both sides down,” Çelik added.

The EU minister noted that 16 chapters have been open for negotiations, while 14 chapters are blocked as a result of the EU Council’s and the Greek Cypriot administration’s politicized motives.

“We expect EU member states to discard the Greek Cypriot administration’s perspective as soon as possible,” Çelik said, adding that the bloc is also responsible for proceeding with Turkey’s accession process.

The EU has been criticized by Turkey for making heavy weather of the visa liberalization against Ankara. Ankara argues that, despite threats posed by several terror groups against Turkey’s national security, Brussels’ insistence that Turkey revise its terror laws is politically motivated.