The dispute between the European Union and Turkey over Cyprus is damaging military cooperation with NATO and wasting tax-payers’ money, the head of the Alliance said on Thursday. “We fully agreed it is important to remove the remaining obstacles to reach the full potential of cooperation,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas.
“In theatre where NATO and the EU operate together, we should be able to cooperate. When it comes to the development of military capability, we should cooperate to avoid wasting tax-payers’ money,” he said. Rasmussen criticised the EU for failing to reach a security agreement with Turkey, and Ankara for its refusal to acknowledge the Greek Cypriot government. “This is the reason why I urge the EU to conclude an agreement with Turkey and Turkey must accept that cooperation between NATO and the EU includes all 27 member states,” he said.
The eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish north and Greek south since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied the island’s northern third in response to a Greek Cypriot coup.The internationally recognised Greek Cypriot south joined the EU in 2004. Turkey refuses to recognise its government and instead acknowledges the breakaway Turkish Cypriot statelet in the north. The row has led Greece and Cyprus to object to any Turkish participation in the development of the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) while Turkey has blocked the Greek Cypriots from joining EU-NATO meetings and from taking part in ESDP missions using NATO intelligence and resources.
Turkey is NATO’s sole Muslim member and has the second largest standing army in the alliance.