Cyprus threatens to block EU Turkey migrant deal
(MENAFN- The Peninsula) European Council President Donald Tusk (L) and Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades talk to the media after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Nicosia Cyprus 15 March 2016. EPA/PETROS KARADJIAS / POOL
Nicosia:Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said Tuesday that his country will not accept the European Union's migration deal with Turkey without concessions from Ankara in the dispute over the Mediterranean island.
"Cyprus does not intend to consent to the opening of any new chapters if Turkey does not fulfil its obligations" Anastasiades said after talks with EU president Donald Tusk who said "the key question of legality" still needed to be sorted out for the deal.
EU and Turkish leaders agreed last week to a tentative proposal including the return of migrants landing in Greece and a "one-for-one" swap of Syrian refugees.
Cyprus has expressed reservations not least as Turkey expects the accord to lead to the opening of new chapters in Ankara's longstanding EU membership bid and ease visa requirements in Europe's passport-free Schengen area.
Anastasiades said Cyprus would not accept "the Turkish demands without (the) implementation of Turkey's long-pending obligations" in its EU membership bid.
The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern sector in response to an Athens-engineered coup attempt.
Turkey does not recognise the government of Cyprus and Nicosia has blocked six key chapters of Ankara's negotiations for EU membership since 2009 effectively halting the process.
Cyprus insists Turkey must first meet its longstanding demands for recognition and to open up trade ties ports and airports.
A Cypriot refusal of the migrant-swap deal would effectively block the largest diplomatic push yet to ease Europe's burden of accommodating hundreds of thousands of refugees many of whom enter the EU through Turkey.
Tusk who heads Tuesday to Ankara for talks ahead of negotiations on the EU-Turkey proposal admitted "we are not there yet" in terms of a deal.
"The Turkish proposal... still needs to be rebalanced so as to be accepted by all 28 member states and the EU institutions" he told reporters.