Britain seeks 'urgent' Cyprus solution, backs Turkey's EU bid

28th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

UN-sponsored talks to end the 35-year partition of the Mediterranean island, a former British colony, resumed in September but little progress has been made.

Ankara -- British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Wednesday the Cyprus conflict requires an "urgent" settlement as he reassured Turkey that Britain stands firm by its bid to join the European Union.

"We want to see a Cyprus settlement as soon as possible," Miliband told a press conference after talks with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

"The need is urgent for the people of Cyprus and it's also urgently important in geopolitical terms," he said.

UN-sponsored talks to end the 35-year partition of the Mediterranean island, a former British colony, resumed in September but little progress has been made.

"We are supportive of an intensified dialogue.... This is a once in a generation year to make progress on the Cyprus issue," Miliband said.

The Cyprus conflict remains a major stumbling block for Turkey's bid to join the European Union and Davutoglu stressed Wednesday that "2009 is a great opportunity for a comprehensive settlement."

Ankara accuses the Greek Cypriots, who lead the island's internationally recognised government, of raising obstacles to Turkey's EU membership talks in a bid to extract concession on the Cyprus issue.

A divided Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, with the breakaway Turkish Cypriot statelet in the north effectively left out in the cold.

Ankara's EU accession talks, which started in 2005, have been slowed down also by its sluggish pace of reform and strong opposition to Turkish membership by some bloc members, notably France and Germany.

"The UK remains strongly committed to the vision of Turkey as a full and equal member of the European Union. This is a top priority for the UK," Miliband said.

"It is very important to send a loud message that now it's time for imagination and confidence (to move forward on Turkey's bid), and not for hesitation and blame," he said.

Asked about French and German objections, Miliband said: "The decision of the 27 (EU member states) was to launch an accession process with responsibilities for Turkey but also responsibilities for the EU. We must make sure that they are being carried out with real boldness and drive."

He urged Ankara to continue on the path of reform, and Davutoglu responded that "Turkey's will for reform remains very strong."

AFP/Expatica

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