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Turkey threatens ties freeze if Cyprus takes EU helm

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(ISTANBUL) - Turkey will freeze its relations with the EU if Cyprus takes the union's rotating presidency next year before a solution is reached on the divided island, the deputy prime minister said late Saturday.

"If the negotiations (on Cyprus) do not end positively and the EU handovers the presidency to southern Cyprus, the main crisis will be between the EU and Turkey. Because then we will freeze our relations with the EU," Anatolia news agency quoted Besir Atalay as saying in a TV interview in northern Cyprus.

"This will cause a major disruption in our relations with the EU," Atalay said.

Ankara does not recognise the Cypriot government and has called for a deal to end the 37-year division of the island's Greek and Turkish communities before Cyprus takes over the EU presidency next July.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July already threatened to freeze relations with the EU on the Cypriot issue.

Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since Turkish troops invaded the island and occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece.

The issue remains a major stumbling block to Turkey's struggling bid to join the EU.

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