July 27, 2005

Turkish PM rules out early recognition of Cyprus

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed
on Wednesday that Turkey would not recognize Cyprus before
there was a comprehensive peace settlement on the divided

Turkey is expected to sign a protocol later this week
expanding its customs union with the European Union to 10 new
member states including Cyprus, but insists that this will not
amount to recognition. The signing is the last obstacle Ankara
must clear before opening EU entry talks in October.

"There will be no change on the recognition question until
there is a settlement," Erdogan told reporters at a televised
news conference in London after talks with British Prime
Minister Tony Blair.

Britain holds the EU's rotating presidency and strongly
supports Turkey's EU bid.

Erdogan reiterated Turkey's plan to issue a declaration
shortly making clear its decision to sign the protocol did not
constitute recognition of Cyprus.

The internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government
joined the EU in May last year as the sole representative of
the whole island of Cyprus. Ankara recognizes only a breakaway
Turkish Cypriot enclave in the north of the island.

In spite of the Cyprus problem, Erdogan struck an
optimistic note on Turkey's prospects in the EU entry talks.

"I believe we can open two or three chapters during the
British presidency," he said. Britain holds the presidency
until Dec. 31.

Turkey has to bring its laws into line with those of the EU
in about 35 areas of policy, known as "chapters," during a
negotiating process expected to last up to 10 years.

Erdogan urged the 25 EU governments to speedily approve a
negotiating mandate drafted by the European Commission, saying
it was wrong to wait until the very eve of the negotiations.

Some EU members remain wary about admitting Turkey, a
large, mainly Muslim and relatively poor country, into their