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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 September 2007, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
UK vows to back Turkey's EU bid
David Miliband and Ali Babacan
The two foreign ministers spoke for more than 90 minutes
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has reaffirmed the UK government's support for full Turkish membership of the EU.

Mr Miliband was speaking alongside his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan in the country's capital, Ankara.

He was the first foreign minister to meet Mr Babacan since Turkey's new government was formed last week.

Mr Miliband, who described the meeting as intense and productive, also urged Turkey to play a bigger regional role.

He said that Turkey, a large Nato ally on the borders of the Middle East, had much to offer Europe in the areas of energy and security and was particularly well-placed to help in stabilising Iraq.

Indicating that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government will continue existing policy towards Turkey, Mr Miliband added: "We want the EU to be a shared institution of which Britain and Turkey are full and equal members.

"We believe that there are big gains for Britain, Europe and Turkey from a process of closer and closer collaboration on issues ranging from security, energy to cultural exchange."

Cyprus issue

Ankara began accession talks with the 27-member bloc in October 2005, only to see them partially frozen over its refusal to extend a customs union deal to EU-member Cyprus.

We very much hope that [the Cyprus] talks will be entered into with real openness and determination
David Miliband
UK Foreign Secretary

At the news conference, the British foreign minister welcomed fresh talks for peace on the divided island of Cyprus.

"I understand that there are talks opening today that are potentially very important for the Cyprus issue," Mr Miliband told reporters.

"We very much hope that those talks will be entered into with real openness and determination on both sides."

Cyprus has been divided between Greek and Turkish areas since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a military coup on the island which was backed by the Greek government.

Later on Wednesday, Mr Miliband will be the first foreign guest of the newly-elected president, Abdullah Gul.

He also announced a decision to formalise annual meetings at foreign minister level and to forge closer links between the two countries' diplomatic services.

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