Turkish premier rejects Merkel criticism of Cyprus conflic

Turkish premier rejects Merkel criticism of Cyprus conflic

Turkey's prime minister has strongly rebuffed comments made by German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticising Turkey for making insufficient effort to solve the Cyprus conflict, Turkish media reported Wednesday, dpa reported.

   "I guess Ms Merkel has forgotten what she has said. She herself said that it was wrong to admit southern Cyprus into the European Union," the semi-official Anatolian Agency quoted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as saying while on an official visit to Qatar.

European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis, meanwhile, said that Merkel had made a historic mistake, while Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned her that Germany could only contribute to Cypriot peace if she makes objective judgments.

   Merkel visited Cyprus on Tuesday - the first visit by a German leader - and praised the steps taken by the Cypriot government, but asserted that Turkey and Turkish Cypriots have not tried hard enough to find a resolution to the Cyprus problem.

   The Cypriot government had "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.

The government in the Cypriot capital Nicosia on Wednesday said Merkel's comments show that Christofias' efforts to find a solution within European Union law and United Nations resolutions is being acknowledged and valued.

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said Cyprus would "resolutely and consistently continue to work on a solution."

   The Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in response to a Greek- inspired coup.

   Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot south enjoys EU privileges. The Turkish Cypriot north is recognised only by Turkey.

   In a strongly worded response to Merkel's statements, Erdogan pointed out that Greek Cypriots in 2004 rejected a UN-sponsored plan for reunification of the island, which Turkish Cypriots had accepted.

   "It is clear that [Merkel] does not know about the history of the Cyprus issue. I call on her to research its history and have tea with [former German chancellor] Gerhard Schroeder," Erdogan said.

   Negotiations in recent years between Greek and Turkish Cypriots have made some progress on issues of governance and a power sharing formula under a future federation. But many more difficult issues, including that of property lost during the war, have yet to be resolved.

   The Cyprus issue is a key obstacle to Turkey's efforts to join the EU. Eight out of the 35 chapters that guide the EU accession process have been frozen by the EU because of Turkey's conflict with Greek Cyprus, while Cyprus itself has informally blocked another six.

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