The European Union will “never accept” a two-state solution for Cyprus, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday, pitting the bloc against Turkey.
“I want to repeat that we will never, ever, accept a two-state solution, we are firm on that and very united, and this is what Cyprus can expect,” Ms von der Leyen said, speaking alongside Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.
“The most precious part is unity in the EU, and the knowledge that all 26 member states at the European level are standing by your side."
A two-state Cyprus is backed by Turkey, which is also the only nation to recognise the north of the island as a separate country.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey occupied the northern third in response to a coup orchestrated by an Athens-backed junta seeking to annex the island to Greece.
The Turkish-held north declared independence in 1983, but is recognised only by Ankara. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004.
In April, a summit in Geneva failed to broker a deal between Cypriot leaders to resume talks that stalled in 2017, but the UN is trying to mediate.
The EU supports member state Greece in another long-running dispute with Turkey over sea and mineral rights.
Ms Von der Leyen said a summit of EU leaders sent a “very clear message” to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“I want our neighbours [Turkey] to know that if they speak to one of our member states, like, for example, Cyprus, in whatever tone, they speak to the EU,” she said.
“We are united on that, we stand by your side, and I have been clear on that too in my phone call with President Erdogan.”
She said Cyprus would receive €1.2 billion ($1.42bn) in EU funding to revive its pandemic-stricken economy. “It will spur growth, modernise and transform Cyprus,” she said.
Cyprus proposes to use 41 per cent of the funds to support climate objectives, by changing tax rules, liberalising the electricity market and encouraging construction of energy-efficient buildings.
Another €18m will go towards fighting natural disasters, a move that Ms von der Leyen commended after visiting areas devastated by Cyprus's worst bush fire that killed four people last weekend.