Turkey's behaviour "widening its separation" from EU, Borrell says

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FILE PHOTO: EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell speaks on relations with the U.S. during a plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell speaks on relations with the U.S. during a plenary session of the European Parliament in Brussels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Turkey's rhetoric on Cyprus is aggravating tensions with the European Union and Ankara must understand that its behaviour is "widening its separation" from the 27-nation bloc, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday.

"We consider the recent actions and statements by Turkey related to Cyprus contrary to the United Nations resolutions and further igniting tensions," Borrell told a news conference after a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

"We consider that it is important that Turkey understands that its behaviour is widening its separation from the EU ... In order to return to a positive agenda, as we wish, will require a fundamental change of attitude on the Turkish side."

He was referring to comments by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who called for an equal "two-state" solution in Cyprus during a visit earlier this week to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the island.

Erdogan also said Turkey and Northern Cyprus would no longer tolerate what he called "diplomacy games" in an international dispute over rights to offshore resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey is an official candidate for EU membership.

Cyprus has been split along ethnic lines since a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Only Ankara recognises Northern Cyprus as an independent state and it has no diplomatic relations with the government of Cyprus, which is a member of the EU.

Cyprus called Erdogan's visit "provocative and illegal".

The EU has threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey over illegal exploration at sea when its leaders meet next month.

"Time is running, and we are approaching a watershed moment in our relationship with Turkey," Borrell said.

The EU has failed to persuade Ankara to stop exploring in waters disputed by Greece and Cyprus, but it has so far held off imposing sanctions that Athens and Nicosia are seeking.

Germany, which has led diplomatic talks with Ankara, wants to give dialogue a chance because of close EU-Turkey trade ties.

(Reporting by John Chalmers and Robin Emmott, Editing by William Maclean)