“Turkey is one of the most important allies of the European Union for geopolitics, trade and politics. The refugee crisis that happened a couple years ago has reminded how important Turkey is for the EU and that this problem can’t be solved without it,” a Hungarian deputy of the European Parliament (EP), Marton Gyöngyösi, said on Sunday.
“Same with the crises in the Middle East and North Africa. It is much harder to find solutions without Turkey; this is clear,” he added.
Answering Anadolu Agency’s questions, the Jobbik party lawmaker, who is also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, underlined that Turkey-EU relations can be developed.
“We should focus on areas that will ease, facilitate and develop the relations. In the current circumstances, developments in the Eastern Mediterranean are straining the relations. Something needs to be done about this, quick,” he said.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected maritime boundary claims by Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration in the region and stressed that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
Ankara has sent several drillships and seismic research vessels in recent months to explore hydrocarbon energy on its continental shelf, asserting its rights in the region, as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Turkish leaders have repeatedly stressed that Ankara is in favor of resolving outstanding problems in the region through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiation.
Saying that there can be a solution inclusive of the international community for the Eastern Mediterranean tensions, the Hungarian lawmaker also stated that the Cyprus issue needs to be resolved.
“The divided Cyprus is the cause of Eastern Mediterranean issues. If the Cyprus issue is resolved, more complex issues such as maritime boundaries and sharing of energy sources can be resolved too,” he said.
Gyöngyösi also emphasized that the disagreements between Turkey and the EU should not turn into an ideological struggle.
He also praised the Turkish Oruç Reis survey vessel’s return to the port of Antalya ahead of the EU summit.
“This is a positive step calming the situation. The key to the problem is Cyprus. I believe that Turks and the Greeks are the locals of the island. They need to share the natural resources of the island and the sea surrounding it. The only way to realize this is to recognize the fact that Turkish Cypriots have equal rights on the island,” the lawmaker added.
Last week, Turkey’s Oruç Reis survey vessel returned to the southern port of Antalya from Mediterranean waters after having completed its seismic research activities.
“This issue will be resolved if both Turks and Greeks on Cyprus have equal share both politically and economically. I would be pleased to see a negotiations process on this issue,” he said.
Following the Turkish vessel’s move, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also said that the return of Oruç Reis to port is a "good signal" ahead of the upcoming European Union summit.
Gyöngyösi also added that Eastern Mediterranean issues cannot be solved permanently without the Cyprus issue being resolved.
“What I see is that the EU is totally cut off from this process. There was the Annan Plan aiming to realize an agreement. While North Cypriots accepted the deal, Greeks rejected it, hence the lack of solution,” he said.
“We internalized this issue after the Greek Cypriots became an EU member in 2004. In this period, the EU needed to demand that the Greek Cypriots solve the issue first and apply to become a member later, but they did not. I think that was a historical mistake that the EU did. The EU should have delayed the integration. That would change the Greek Cypriots’ mind and would also make sure they became a part of the solution,” he added.
The island of Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot government in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south since a 1974 military coup aimed at Cyprus' annexation by Greece.
Turkey's military intervention stopped the yearslong persecution and violence against Turkish Cypriots by ultra-nationalist Greek Cypriots. The TRNC was established in 1983 on the northern tier of the island and is only recognized by Turkey. The country has faced an ongoing embargo on commerce, transportation and culture ever since.
The Cyprus issue has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece and the U.K.
“If Turkey wants to join the EU, it needs to work for this and accept the conditions. But it’s also not a big problem if Turkey has given up on this. The United Kingdom has found a similar solution,” he said, pointing to the Brexit.
“EU members may also choose to do that too in the future; that’s not a problem. But honesty is crucial for this: If we know for sure what the other side wants, we can work to develop relations,” the lawmaker added.
Gyöngyösi also touched on the fragility of the global economy in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has shown how interconnected economies and states are. I think we need to go forth by strengthening economic relations and try to find areas of cooperation. Our economies are dependent on each other. At the end of the day, the EU is an economic project. The EU is economically connected to its close neighbors such as Turkey. The economic integration is what matters, and we have to work for this. Everyone needs to see the benefits of economic integration,” he added.
“When we look at recent years from an economic integration perspective, we can see that both the EU and Turkey have benefited from cooperation,” Gyöngyösi concluded.
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