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Turkey calls on EU leaders to resist pressure from Cyprus and act with 'common sense'

Turkey calls on EU leaders to resist pressure from Cyprus and act with 'common sense'

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday urged European Union countries to act with "common sense" on the issue of divided Cyprus, which threatens to stall Turkey's efforts to join the EU.
"I believe the leaders of the European countries will act with common sense and not allow a member country" to sabotage Turkey's membership talks, Erdogan said.
He was referring to warnings by the Greek Cypriot government in the south of the island, which joined the EU in 2004, that it could block membership talks after the European Commission recommended a partial freeze in the negotiations with Turkey.
Erdogan spoke at a joint news conference with Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, who arrived here to try to convince Turkey to meet one of the EU's key demands: to open its ports to Greek Cypriot ships and planes.
Turkey, which recognizes only the breakaway Turkish Cypriot republic in the island's north, has refused.
"Today, in our relations with the European Union, we are in a new turning point. ... We are encountering certain obstacles which might actually cause some problems for us," Erdogan said. "Unfortunately, one member country ... has unacceptable demands," Erdogan said of Cyprus.
Vanhanen assured Turkey that it remains a candidate country, but said its membership talks with the EU could be slowed down because of the dispute. A final decision on the European Commission's recommendation will be made at a December EU summit.
"We are committed to Turkey's EU membership. Turkey belongs to Europe," Vanhanen said.
Erdogan urged the EU to find a solution to overcome the impasse.
"Turkish-EU relations are deeper than the Cyprus issue," Erdogan told reporters. "The shortfalls, the faults in the recommendation must be overcome. ... We will continue to produce proposals."
Earlier in the day, Turkey's foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, met ambassadors of European Union countries in a bid to avert a partial suspension of the talks.
Ankara on Monday rejected a compromise plan, drafted by Finland, that would lift the isolation of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state while opening Turkish ports to Greek Cypriot ships and planes.
Cyprus threatened Thursday to block Turkey's EU membership talks unless Ankara commits to lifting trade restrictions on the island republic.
Government spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis said Cyprus would make its decision when EU leaders meet Dec. 14-15 in Brussels, Belgium, to consider whether to partially suspend Turkey's EU entry talks.
Turkey agreed in July 2005 to open its ports and airports to 10 new EU member nations, including Cyprus, as part of conditions for starting membership talks with the European Union.
The 25-nation bloc has promised to lift an EU trade ban on the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north of the island, but Ankara believes that the Europeans could be trying to lay the groundwork for the reunification of Cyprus, a troubled issue that Ankara says should only be dealt with by the United Nations.
Cyprus has been split between a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north since 1974, when Turkish forces invaded the island in response to an attempted coup by military officers trying to unite the island with Greece.
The breakaway state in the north is recognized only by Ankara, and Turkey does not recognize the government in the Greek Cypriot south.
In an interview with private CNN-Turk television, Vanhanen said the EU recommendation _ that the EU freeze talks on eight of the 35 issues _ was an opportunity for Turkey to proceed with the membership process, albeit at a slower pace.
"What is important is for the negotiations not to come to a halt, because if they do it would be difficult to restart them," he said, according to a voice-over translation of his words into Turkish.
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Associated Press Writer Suzan Fraser in Istanbul contributed to this report.