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Germany's Merkel presses Turkey to resolve Cyprus conflict

Turkey Materials 11 January 2011 18:45
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Turkey on Tuesday to make more of an effort to resolve the conflict dividing the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus for more than three decades.
Germany's Merkel presses Turkey to resolve Cyprus conflict

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Turkey on Tuesday to make more of an effort to resolve the conflict dividing the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus for more than three decades, dpa reported.

She praised the steps taken by the Cypriot government, saying "they have really proven their willingness to compromise, but unfortunately there has not been any response from the other side so far," Merkel said following talks with Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias.

It is the first ever visit to the eastern Mediterranean island by a German head of government and Christofias said the visit was of "fundamental importance" for peace negotiations.

Merkel's visit comes one day after a brief stopover in Malta where she held talks on issues such as European politics and the state of the euro with Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and President George Abela in the capital Valetta.

The visits are aimed at signalling the importance of good relations with the European Union's smaller member states.

Both Cyprus and Malta both adopted the euro currency in 2008.

Cyprus has been been divided since 1974 into an internationally recognised Greek Cypriot south and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north, after Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in response to a Greek-inspired coup.

Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, but only the south enjoys the benefits.

Turkey still maintains 45,000 troops on the island, while 850 UN troops patrol the Green Line, or buffer zone, which divides the Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north, which is recognized only by Turkey.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned that peace talks to end Cyprus' division "could founder fatally if a substantive agreement" is not reached before voters in Cyprus and Turkey go to the polls later in 2011.

Despite progress on the issues of governance and the a power sharing formula under a future federation, months of negotiations between the two communities have failed to bridge the gap of more difficult issues, including property lost during the war.

During a trip to Turkey last year, the chancellor described Cyprus as a key issued preventing Turkish accession to the EU.

Its refusal to open airports and harbours to Greek Cypriot trade has blocked accession negotiations between the EU and Turkey in several key areas.

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