The Turkish government has warned that it will freeze its ties with the European Union if Cyprus assumes the bloc’s rotating presidency next year.
“If the peace negotiations there (Cyprus) are not conclusive, and the EU gives its rotating presidency to southern Cyprus, the real crisis will be between Turkey and the EU,” said Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay at the end of a trip to northern Cyprus late on Saturday, Reuters reported.
“Because we will then freeze our relations with the EU. We have made this announcement, as a government we have made this decision. Our relations with the EU will come to a sudden halt,” Atalay further explained.
The Greek Cyprus, which Turkey does not recognize as a sovereign state, is due to assume the six-month rotating EU presidency in July 2012.
Tensions between Turkey and Cyprus have deteriorated since the Cypriot President Demetris Christofias announced plans to start exploring natural gas reserves around the island “within the next few days.”
Ankara has opposed the venture, with the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu calling it a “provocation,” while Nicosia has threatened to block Turkey’s EU accession talks — which started in 2005 — if it continues to challenge the Cypriot plans.
UN-sponsored peace negotiations between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots have faced hurdles since their resumption in 2008.
Cyprus is represented internationally and in the EU by Greek Cypriots, while the Turkish Cyprus is recognized as a state only by Turkey.
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