President Gül calls on UK to take urgent steps on Cyprus
ANKARA / NICOSIA 11/27/2011
Turkish President Abdullah Gül has urged Britain, one of Cyprus’ guarantor powers, to take action to help solve the problem of the island’s division before Greek Cyprus assumes the EU’s rotating presidency in July 2012.
I said that if the United Kingdom sincerely wants to take a step [on the Cyprus issue], it is just the time to do this. You will be able to take action until June 2012,” Gül was quoted as saying by private broadcaster CNNTürk.
The president returned to Turkey from an official U.K. visit last week.
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Britain has been a strong supporter of Turkey's desire to join the EU.
Turkey would be the first secular nation with a majority Muslim population in the EU club, but its failure to normalise relations with the republic of Cyprus has blocked progress in the accession talks.
The Queen made a state visit to the republic in May 2008, less than six months after the Prince of Wales toured the country. The two royal trips highlighted the importance of Britain's relationship with the country.
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Turkey has 30,000 troops stationed in Cyprus, the UK also
has two extensive sovereign base areas on the Mediterranean island, occupying 98 sq miles (254 sq km) or about 3 percent of its territory, which it retained when Cyprus won independence in 1960.
Israel said earlier this week that it will assign the majority of its warships to protect its offshore drilling rafts in the area following the latest bust-ups between Israel and Turkey, in a vivid illustration of the escalating militarization of the region. Veysel Ayhan, an expert on the Middle East at the Middle East Strategic Research Center (OSAM), says a decreasing US influence in the eastern Mediterranean has created a power vacuum in the region which various powers are rushing to fill. Israel is attempting to build military ties with Greek Cyprus and Greece, Turkey’s traditional foes, in a move to isolate Turkey.
Britain to retain its two Cyprus military bases