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Turkey, Cyprus lobby for EU support ahead of summit

ANKARA/NICOSIA (Reuters) - Turkey and Cyprus, sharply at odds over rights in the Mediterranean, made competing claims on Wednesday for support from the European Union ahead of a leaders’ summit at which the divided bloc will discuss possible sanctions on Ankara.

FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (not pictured) address the media during a joint news conference after a meeting in Berlin, Germany July 2, 2020. Michael Sohn/Pool via REUTERS

Turkey said it expects the EU to take concrete steps at its Oct. 1-2 meeting to update a 2016 migrant deal and a customs union, while Cyprus - a bloc member - called for solidarity and action against Ankara.

Cyprus is withholding its consent to EU sanctions on Belarus because it wants tougher measures from the bloc on Turkey, which it says is violating its maritime territory in a search for hydrocarbons.

Greece, also an EU member, supports Cyprus’s position, even while Athens agreed to resume talks with Ankara to address the row that escalated in recent months. Turkey dismisses the criticism and says it is protecting its legal offshore jurisdiction.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking on state-run Anadolu news agency TV, said Turkey expected the EU to continue the positive momentum gained from diplomatic efforts to establish dialogue with Greece.

He urged an update to the 2016 deal under which Ankara curbed migrant entries into Europe in exchange for financial help and visa-free travel in the Schengen region. “These things can’t be one-sided and that is our expectation,” he said.

EU leaders will address the eastern Mediterranean tensions on Thursday. Talk of sanctions on Turkey have faded since Athens and Ankara moved toward dialogue, though the risk has weighed on Turkey’s lira which has hit record lows this month.

Cyprus has repeatedly called for sanctions. After a meeting with his Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides said: “Cyprus looks to the EU and its partners for solidarity in action.”

“Concretely upholding our common values and interests, and implementing our own decisions is of the essence,” he added.

Also ahead of the summit, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan sent a letter to EU leaders - excluding Greece and Cyprus - saying Greece and Greek Cypriots caused the regional tension, adding he hopes they will show an unbiased approach on Thursday.

“Our expectation from the EU is to remain objective, treat everyone equally and back dialogue and cooperation,” Erdogan said in the letter sent on Wednesday.

Writing by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Daren Butler, William Maclean