Turkey cannot recognize Cyprus, island Turkish leader says

The President of the breakaway Cyprus Turkish state Mehmet Ali Talat said Friday that Turkey could not now recognize the Greek Cypriot government on the south of the island.

"It is very clear that it is impossible for Turkey to recognize the Republic of Cyprus as it is now," Talat told a news conference.

His statement was the latest development in a growing confrontation between Turkey and France and some other European Union member states which insist that Ankara must recognize Cyprus as a full and equal member of the union before the planned Oct. 3 opening of Turkey's own negotiations to join the organization.

Cyprus was one of the ten new members to join the EU in May last year. Turkey signed a customs protocol last week extending its existing customs arrangements with the EU to the ten new members. But it accompanied its signature with a separate declaration saying this did not mean it was formally recognizing Cyprus.

The east Mediterranean island has been split into the Greek Cypriot controlled south and a Turkish-occupied north since Turkey invaded in 1974 after an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece. The breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north is only recognized by Turkey which maintains 40,000 troops there.

"It is totally impossible for Turkey to recognize Cyprus before there is a settlement and the island is reunified," Talat said.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Tuesday it would be inconceivable for the EU to open membership talks with Turkey if Ankara does not recognize all the 25 member states of the union.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday he was "deeply saddened" by the French position.

He said the EU decision in December to start membership talks with Turkey did not demand recognition of Cyprus and he was not prepared to accept new conditions before the talks start on Oct. 3.

The decision on opening talks did require Turkey's signature on the customs protocol and the current dispute is over whether that automatically means recognition of all the ten new members, the AP reports.

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