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British PM backs Turkey over Cyprus

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British PM backs Turkey over Cyprus

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The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has reassured Turkey that signing a trade agreement with new European Union members will not amount to Anakara officially recognising Cyprus. The customs trade protocol is the last hurdle to be overcome before Turkey begins talks on October 3 on joining the EU. “I restated very clearly, the position to the prime minister, that the signing of the Ankara protocol does not involve the recognition of Cyprus,” Blair said at a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in London. Erdogan said Ankara had not changed its approach to Cyprus.

He added that he hoped progress would be made on Turkey joining the EU while the UK holds the bloc’s rotating presidency – that is until the end of December. But the situation is complicated to say the least. Cyprus joined the EU last year but it is only represented by Greek Cypriots as Turkey, which maintains control of the north of the island, refuses to recognise the Greek-Cypriot government. However, Turkey will have to accept the validity of the Cypriot vote in the European parliament. A vote has to be held before membership talks with Turkey can start.