Reinfeldt: ‘Turkey belongs to Europe’

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt expressed his support on Tuesday for Turkey’s EU membership, emphasizing that a settlement in Cyprus would aid the process.

“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 response to a Athens-engineered coup to unite the island with mainland Greece.

Elections in the breakaway 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 recognized Greek Cypriot government and is the only country to recognize 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.

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