European and Turkish officials at a summit in Brussels on Sunday reported progress in negotiations on resolving a long-standing dispute over Cyprus, moving closer to removing a key obstacle to Turkey’s EU accession bid.
A solution could be reached “in coming months,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a televised press conference after the talks. European Commission President Jean- Claude Juncker emphasized that the meeting was the first between Turkey and all 28 members states, and said on Cyprus that “things are moving in the right direction.”
While the Cyprus issue has long seemed the most intractable problem in Turkey’s European Union bid, both sides of the divided island are now led by advocates of reunification — Mustafa Akinci in the Turkish-speaking north and Nicos Anastasiades in the Greek-speaking south. Turkey invaded the island in 1974 to prevent its reunification with Greece, and still keeps about 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus, meaning it’s technically occupying part of an EU member state.
“There is a clear will to move ahead towards a peaceful and amicable solution,” Joseph Muscat, the prime minister of Malta, said on the sidelines of the summit on Sunday. “Indications are that we could expect some positive news about Cyprus in the near future.”
Anastasiades and Davutoglu could be seen smiling and chatting during the summit, and stood side-by-side for the traditional “family photo” of the event.
Cyprus joined the bloc as a member in 2004, with the administration in the south representing the entire island and brandishing a veto right over any progress in Turkey’s bid. Earlier that year, Greek Cypriots had rejected a UN-backed reunification plan, while Turkish Cypriots had voted in favor.