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Turkish PM Criticizes EU Decision On Turkey, British PM Lends Support

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the European Union's decision to partially freeze his country's entry talks is not fair.

Mr. Erdogan Saturday criticized the EU decision to penalize Turkey for failing to normalize its trade with EU member Cyprus. He called on the bloc to allow Ankara's direct trade with the Turkish Cypriot state, without linking the issue to any conditions.

Mr. Erdogan said that 40 years of Turkish relations with Europe have been reduced to side issues like port openings.

He spoke at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Ankara airport, prior to Mr. Blair's departure for Egypt.

Mr. Blair supported the Turkish bid to start direct flights to the isolated Turkish part of the island. He said Turkey's membership is of "fundamental importance to the future of Europe."

Turkey agreed last year to open its EU customs agreement to 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004. But it has refused to open its ports and airfields to internationally recognized Greek-led Cyprus.

Turkey insists that there should be no link between its EU entry bid and resolution on the island, which has been divided since 1974.

Ankara has pledged to open its ports to Cyprus if EU officials end the isolation of the self-proclaimed Turkish state on the island.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.