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Merkel Reassures Turkey On EU Talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan address a press conference after meeting for talks at the Chancellery in Berlin on October 31.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the European Union is being "an honest negotiating partner" in accession talks with Turkey, despite persistent disagreements.

Merkel said after meeting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Berlin that the talks on Turkey's decades-old effort to join the EU would "continue regardless of the questions that still need to be clarified."

"The EU is an honest negotiating partner and the negotiations are still ongoing. There is a progress report. This progress report, I believe, contains important points and these negotiations will continue irrespective of the questions which we have to answer," Merkel said.

"Germany supports this process that these negotiations should be continued and so I believe that the prime minister can assume that the EU -- as much in its institutions as in its member states -- are carrying out these negotiations honestly."

On October 30, Erdogan told a political seminar in Berlin that Turkey might lose interest in becoming an EU member if it didn't join by 2023 -- the centenary of the founding of the Turkish republic.

Turkey applied to join the bloc in 1987, and it was granted candidate status in 1999.

However, accession negotiations, launched in 2005, have all but ground to a halt due to an intractable dispute over the divided island of Cyprus, whose southern part is an EU member, and opposition from core EU members France and Germany.

Erdogan said on October 31 that letting Cyprus in the European Union was "a mistake."

"We recognize North Cyprus as a state, others may not recognize it. But those who accept south Cyprus, Mrs. Merkel also said in the past that to accept south Cyprus in the EU was a mistake," Erdogan said.

"This has been a serious mistake and this mistake continues increasingly. We hope these things don't happen. And Turkey should reach a result in its 50-year EU process. Because no other country has received such treatment. We have to overcome this."

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup in the capital, Nicosia, aimed at union with Greece.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and dpa
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