Accessibility links

Breaking News

Turkey, Greece See Window of Opportunity on Cyprus

Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (l) and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu shake hands after a joint news conference at Cankaya Palace in Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 18, 2015.

The prime ministers of Turkey and Greece on Wednesday said they saw an opportunity to move toward a solution on the 40-year division of Cyprus, and
Athens indicated it would lend support to Ankara's bid to join the European Union.

While relations between the NATO allies have been strained in the past by disputes over territorial borders in the Aegean Sea and the partition of Cyprus, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Greece's Alexis Tsipras have recently held regular telephone discussions, particularly about migration issues.

"There is a window of opportunity right now over the Cyprus issue. The negotiations are going on. We have a common approach with Greece to contribute positively to the talks," Davutoglu said at a joint news conference with Tsipras, who is visiting Turkey.

Cyprus has been split along ethnic lines since a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief, Greek-inspired coup.

The EU considers the Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia to represent the whole island, while Ankara recognises a breakaway Turkish Cypriot administration in the north of the island.

"We will move ahead with our efforts to encourage the two communities [on Cyprus] to reach a just and viable solution," Tsipras said. "I believe we're nearing an opportunity - I don't want to be overly optimistic, I am moderately optimistic - but I believe we must encourage a solution."

A senior Turkish Cypriot official told Reuters on Wednesday that the island was closer than ever to ending its partition, and the two sides could agree on the text of a deal by May.

Tsipras also said Greece views Turkey's bid to join the European Union "in a positive light" provided certain conditions are met, without going into detail.

The two countries must step up cooperation in the fight against smugglers who are transporting hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants to Europe from Turkey through the Greek islands, Tsipras said.

About 650,000 refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty have reached the EU through Greece so far this year, risking their lives in overcrowded, flimsy boats. Thousands have drowned.