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Turkey Agrees to Open Up to Cyprus


EU officials say Turkey has agreed to open one port and one airport to Cyprus, after the bloc threatened to slow membership negotiations with Ankara. Lisa Bryant has more for VOA from Paris.

European Union officials say Turkey has made a first step toward ending a standoff over Cyprus, after the European Commission last week recommended slowing talks on Ankara's membership to the 25-nation bloc.

According to news reports, its unclear what, if anything, Turkey has demanded in return. But the EU's external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told the Reuters news agency that Turkey's decision was a positive move.

Until now, Ankara bucked demands by Brussels that it open its ports and airports to EU member Cyprus. Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 in response to a Greek Cypriot coup, and does not recognize that government.

Senior European diplomats are debating in Brussels what steps to take next on EU membership negotiations with Turkey.

But EU officials like Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson argue the recent deadlock over Cyprus will not scuttle Turkey's chances of eventually joining the bloc.

"I think we need to be careful not to overreact to the current negotiation problems of Turkey's accession," Mandelson said. "We are traveling on a long road, and inevitably there will be bumps on the way. In my view, Turkey's accession remains the big strategic objective for the European Union. It is one of the two or three key tests for the European Union, and one which I believe remains vitally important for us to get right."

Earlier this week, French and German leaders also retreated from a previous call to set a fixed deadline for Turkey to fulfill its trade obligations with Cyprus.

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