ATHENS (Reuters)–Greece called on the international community on Friday to put pressure on Turkey to end a 25-year division of Cyprus and said the island should become a European Union member.
"The international community must exert the maximum possible pressure on Turkey to end its intransigence and cooperate on a solution to the Cyprus problem," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement–released to mark the 25th anniversary on July 20 of Turkey’s invasion of the Mediterranean island and the occupation of its northern third.
It said a solution to the Cyprus problem was the key to an improvement in Greek-Turkish relations and the only way for Ankara to upgrade its relationship with the European Union.
Greece–an EU member–has so far blocked Turkish efforts to become a candidate state for EU membership. It has said Turkey must withdraw its troops from Cyprus and take steps to end the island’s division.
Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974.
The Greek-Cypriot government in Nicosia began accession talks with the EU last year despite the island’s division.
Greece actively promotes Nicosia’s EU membership but many of its European partners have said Cyprus can’t join the group while it is divided.
Alternate Foreign Minister Yannos Kranidiotis told Reuters on Monday that Athens could ease its objections for closer EU-Turkish ties if Cyprus’s accession to the EU was guaranteed.
Kranidiotis also asked the EU to support Greece openly in its long-standing row with Turkey over territorial rights in the Aegean Sea.
"We clearly have more objections than other EU members on whether Turkey should become an EU candidate state. But we are an EU member and if the EU insists on a closer relationship with Turkey then it must give us some solid guarantees," a senior government official told Reuters on Friday.
"We also believe that Cyprus’s eventual EU membership is the only chance for a breakthrough after 25 years of failed efforts to reunite it," he said.
Turkey said on Tuesday it would reject any attempt to link its long-sought candidacy for European Union membership to progress on resolving the division of Cyprus.
Turkey was left out of the EU’s eastward expansion two years ago partly due to Cyprus–split between Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities since Turkey’s 1974 invasion of the north of the island in response to military coup backed by Athens.
Diplomatic sources say some EU countries want Turkey to take steps toward a solution of the Cyprus problem before they are willing to accept it as a formal candidate for membership.