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EUROPE > Greek Cyprus crisis is chance to end division, says Turkish President Gül

VILNIUS - Reuters

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Turkish President Abdullah Gül walks past an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony in Vilnius. AFP photo

Turkish President Abdullah Gül walks past an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony in Vilnius. AFP photo

The financial crisis in Greek Cyprus presents an "important opportunity" to end the division of the island, split between the Greek Cypriot south and Turkish north, Turkish President Abdullah Gül said April 3.

The Mediterranean island concluded a 10 billion-euro ($13 billion) bailout deal with the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on April 2 in order to stave off bankruptcy. 

"There is at the moment significant economic crisis on the island. This should be seen as important opportunity ... Because if the island were to unite, there would be a greater economic potential," Gül said during an official visit to Lithuania.

"There are some restrictions, embargoes on the island. Our suggestion is to lift any and all kinds of restrictions or embargoes simultaneously so that we can create a new climate for moving forward," he said. "I hope that this message will be well understood."

Turkey's failure to extend a customs agreement with the European Union by opening its ports to goods from Cyprus has hindered the EU accession talks.

Relations between Greece and Turkey have thawed over the years, making a resolution more imaginable than in the past.

Beset by economic crisis at home, Greece last month pledged to double annual trade with its eastern neighbour to $10 billion by 2015. 

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras met his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in Istanbul last month and signed deals on issues ranging from agriculture to disaster relief.

Gül said the potential for cooperation between Turkey and Greece made the possible benefits of Cypriot reunification even greater.

April/03/2013

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