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German leader to press Turkey over Cyprus

German leader to press Turkey over Cyprus

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was headed for Turkey on Thursday for a two-day visit, during which she is expected to drive home the European Union's demand that Ankara lift its trade embargo against Cyprus.
After arriving in Ankara, Merkel was to pay her respects at the mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, modern Turkey's founder, and dine with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he broke the Ramadan fast in the evening, officials said.
She intended to raise sensitive issues such as Turkey's refusal to let Cypriot ships and planes use its ports despite Ankara's promise to enact a customs union with the EU, German officials said.
"The EU's membership negotiations with Turkey are being conducted fairly and are open in terms of results," Merkel was quoted as telling Germany's Bild daily. "For us, it is important that Turkey keep to its obligations and fulfill completely the membership criteria."
Merkel has said that resolving the Cyprus dispute is key in Turkey's relations with the EU.
The Turkish embargo casts a pall over Ankara's long-term membership negotiations, begun last year, and the EU's executive commission will issue an evaluation Nov. 8 on the country's progress toward meeting EU conditions.
Cyprus _ divided since Turkish troops invaded in 1974 after a coup attempt by supporters of union with Greece _ joined the EU in 2004, along with nine other nations.
Turkey has no diplomatic relations with the island's internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government, and backs the breakaway Turkish Cypriot republic in the north of the island.
Merkel was likely raise the question of the Greek Orthodox theological seminary on the island of Halki, German officials briefing reporters in Berlin on condition of anonymity said.
The government closed the seminary to new students in 1971 and the EU has pressed for it to reopening.
Merkel meets Friday with Muslim and Christian religious leaders, including Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's more than 200 million Orthodox Christians.
Merkel has expressed skepticism about Turkey's chances for EU membership, and during last year's election campaign she said she favored a "privileged partnership" short of membership. She leads a coalition government with the Social Democrats, however, who favor EU membership for Turkey.


Updated : 2020-11-30 20:30 GMT+08:00