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British Premier tells Erdogan he expects progress on Cyprus
2002-11-20 13:01:00

By Kyriacos Tsioupras London, Nov 20 (CNA) ? British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he expects progress to be made on the Cyprus problem.

Blair made the statement after meeting here Wednesday Turkey's leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said the issue of setting a date for Turkey to start accession negotiations with the European Union (EU) should not be associated with a Cyprus solution, and that the Turkish government will negotiate the UN Secretary-General's plan for a comprehensive settlement.

Erdogan, accompanied by Turkey's newly appointed Foreign Minister, Yasar Yakis, also met Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who said Turkey and the UK strongly support the UN Secretary-General's efforts to secure a settlement in Cyprus.

"We should not associate the issue of setting a date for Turkey to start accession negotiations with a solution to the Cyprus problem," Erdogan said, replying to questions after his Ten Downing Street meeting with Blair.

Asked whether he will negotiate the Annan plan, Erdogan replied, "yes."

"During their meeting with Blair, the two discussed European defence, Cyprus and relations between Turkey and the European Union," a statement from the Prime Minister's office said.

"On Cyprus, the Prime minister said that he expects progress to be made on the basis of the Kofi Annan's proposals. Mr. Erdogan said he will work on the proposals," the statement said.

On the Turkey-EU relations, the Prime Minister hoped "that progress will be made" while on the European defence, both sides were keen to make progress," the statement concluded.

Foreign Secretary Straw said that he and Blair talked about Cyprus during their meeting. "Turkey and the UK strongly support the UN Secretary- General's efforts to secure a settlement in Cyprus," he said, adding "this visit was a valuable opportunity for us to compare notes on prospects for a durable, comprehensive settlement, which meets the needs of both partiers."

The UK, he added, "is convinced such an outcome is attainable."|

Straw also underlined the UK's position as a long-standing and strong supporter of Turkey's goal to join the EU."

Erdogan and Yakis were on their first visit to the UK following the AKP's landslide victory in elections earlier this month. The two also attended a conference of UK and Turkish businessmen.

The UN Secretary-General put forward to the two parties on November 11 a proposal which, he said, he believes can form the basis for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.

The National Council, comprising parliamentary parties, recommended on Monday by majority vote that President Glafcos Clerides negotiates the UN proposal with a view at finding a political settlement in Cyprus.

The Turkish Cypriot side has yet to reply to Kofi Annan's request to say whether it accepts the proposal as a basis to negotiate an agreement.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 percent of the island's territory.

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