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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 April, 2004, 21:30 GMT 22:30 UK
EU to ease north Cyprus trade ban
Turkish Cypriots in Kyrenia, northern Cyprus
Many Turkish Cypriots are angry at their continuing isolation
The European Union has agreed measures to ease its 30-year-old trade embargo on the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Diplomats in Brussels said goods produced in the TRNC can be sent across the Green Line to the Greek Cypriot south, which joins the EU on 1 May.

The goods then can cross to the rest of the EU without restrictions or tariffs.

The proposed deal has to be ratified at a meeting of EU justice and interior ministers in Luxembourg on Thursday.

Correspondents say, the decision is seen as a reward for Turkish Cypriots, who - despite voting last week to back a United Nations peace plan to reunify the divided island - will remain isolated.

In contrast, Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected the plan in a separate referendum.

Earlier on Wednesday, Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said he still backed the UN plan, even though he campaigned against it.

Mr Papadopoulos - who has been strongly criticised by the EU and the United States after the "no" vote - said reunification efforts remained a priority.

Aid pledge

Correspondents say, the proposed EU deal will mean that goods genuinely manufactured in northern Cyprus and "economically justified" can be exported tariff-free across the bloc, which this Saturday expands from 15 to 25 members.

Cyprus

They say, the trade will be regulated and authorised by the European Commission - not the Greek Cypriots.

However, EU diplomats said the number of crossing points along the Green Line would not be increased from the two currently in place.

The EU already pledged to release almost 260m euros (308m) in aid to help end the economic isolation of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state, which is recognised only by Turkey.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the north following a Greek-backed coup in Nicosia.


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