Cyprus will veto a planned EU-Turkey deal on refugees unless Ankara recognises the country’s Greek Cypriot government, President Nicos Anastasiades told euronews in an interview on Thursday.
Last week, Germany brokered a deal with the Turkish government that would see migrants who reach Greece from Turkey sent back.
The draft agreement says that for each Syrian returned, a Syrian in Turkey would be resettled in an EU country.
In return, the EU says it will look to speed up Turkey’s EU membership talks and could offer up to 6 billion euros in financial aid for Syria refugees in Turkey.
Visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the European Union is also included in the draft deal.
Cyprus has been divided since the Turkish military invaded the island in 1974 and Anastasiades said that Nicosia would block any agreement at a two-day meeting of EU leaders in Brussels unless there was a change to Turkey’s long-standing policy towards the Greek Cypriot government.
“That is what I stressed to our partners during the previous Council on March 7th,” the Cypriot president said. “As long as Turkey doesn’t implement its obligations, we don’t have any other choice.
“It was impossible for anybody to expect that we would agree on that,” he said. “Turkey has to open its harbours and airports (to Cypriot boats and planes) and normalize its relations with Cyprus.
“I am sorry but I have to say that we were not asked if we had the intention to approve (this deal) and therefore this action violated the current rules for the opening of any chapters,” said Anastasiades, referring to the areas of negotiation for Turkey’s EU membership bid.
Speaking earlier on Thursday, European Council president Donald Tusk told reporters that he was “cautiously optimistic, but frankly speaking more cautious than optimistic”.
“The agreement must be acceptable to all 28 member states, no matter big or small,” said Tusk, a former Polish prime minister.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will attend talks with EU heads of state and government on Friday.
Last year, more than one million refugees and migrants arrived on Greek shores by boat from Turkey, which itself hosts nearly 3 million refugees.
The UN refugee agency says that more than 140,000 have arrived in 2016 alone.
European leaders have struggled to agree a common approach to managing the migration flows, which are mostly driven by conflict and unrest in the Middle East.
Many countries have decided to tighten border controls, while others, such as Hungary, have built fences to stop migrants entering their territory.