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REUTERS, NOVEMBER 23, 2002
2002-11-24 20:46:56

Turkish PM Says New Govt. Welcomes U.N. Cyprus Plan
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said on Saturday his new government welcomed a U.N. peace plan to reunite the divided island of Cyprus and signaled talks based on the draft were still possible.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (news - web sites)'s November 18 deadline to accept his plan, which proposes two partner states reunited under a single central government, as a basis for negotiations passed without agreement from Ankara or the Turkish Cypriot administration it backs.

Athens and the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government have agreed to negotiate Annan's plan that sees a broad agreement by December 12 when the European Union (news - web sites) meets in Copenhagen to set a date for Cyprus' entry to the bloc.

"Our government believes that a solution must definitely be found for the Cyprus issue," Gul said in an address of parliament that outlined his government's program before a vote of confidence scheduled for next week.

"Our government welcomes U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's undertaking to bring peace to Cyprus, and we foresee a negotiating phase for a lasting solution that guarantees our national interests and the Turkish people's existence and sovereignty on the island," Gul said.

Although Turkey has still not officially endorsed Annan's blueprint, Gul's remarks to parliament indicated Turkey could agree to discuss the plan, presented earlier this month.

Officials from Gul's Justice and Development Party (AKP) which swept to power in an election earlier this month, have broken with previous governments by saying Turkey's own EU aspirations would be boosted if the decades-long stalemate on Cyprus were solved.

The Mediterranean island has been partitioned along ethnic lines since a 1974 Turkish invasion in response to a Greek Cypriot coup engineered by Athens.

Brussels has said it will take in Cyprus, a frontrunner in the bloc's enlargement plans, with or without a settlement.

Distant EU candidate Turkey hopes to win a date to begin membership talks with the bloc at the Copenhagen summit, and European leaders have said Turkey would improve its chances of winning a date if it cooperates on Cyprus.

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