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Swedish Prime Minister backs up Turkey

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt on Tuesday backed Turkey for EU membership, but stressed that a settlement the Cyprus would help the process, the Anatolia news agency reported.

"Sweden fully supports Turkey's bid to join the European Union...Turkey belongs to Europe," Anatolia quoted Reinfeldt as saying after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But a settlement from the UN-led peace talks between the rival Turkish and Greek sectors on Cyprus would help Turkey's case, he added.

Sweden takes over the rotating EU presidency on July 1.

Turkey launched membership talks with the European bloc in October 2005.

But the talks have stalled over opposition from some EU states to allowing a predominantly Muslim country into the bloc; and over its long-running row with Cyprus.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded its northern third in reponse to a Athens-engineered coup to unite the island with mainland Greece.

Elections in the breakway Turkish Cypriot state on Sunday saw the return to power of hardline nationalists, raising fears over the future of the peace negotiations.

But Erdogan earlier Tuesday warned the poll winner against disrupting the talks.

Ankara wished to see a "just, lasting and comprehensive" settlement to the island's division by the end of the year, he said.

Turkey has refused to endorse the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government and is the only country to recognise the self-styled Turkish Cypriot statelet.

It has also refused to open its ports to EU-member Cyprus under a customs union pact with the EU.

That prompted the EU bloc in 2006 to freeze talks in eight of the 35 policy chapters Ankara needs to successfully negotiate.

Last Updated (Friday, 29 May 2009 13:54)


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