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NICOSIA (Reuters) - Britain urged Turkey on Monday to honour a pledge to the European Union to open its ports and airports to neighbouring Cyprus, saying it would be an important step in Ankara's talks to join the bloc.
Turkey has no diplomatic relations with Cyprus, an EU member since 2004, but is under pressure to make good a promise to open its ports to its southern neighbour under a deal which enabled it to start accession talks in 2005.
"I urge the Turkish government to honour the commitments that it has already made. We would like to see the ports opened, we'd like to see them making that commitment again and seeing action rather than just words," said British Minister for Europe Chris Bryant.
Turkish compliance with its commitments will be discussed by EU heads of state at a summit in mid-December.
Cyprus was divided in a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. The conflict has slowed Turkey's EU entry talks at the urging of Greek Cypriots, who represent the island in the 27-member bloc.
"We don't want (Turkey's accession process) to stop, we don't want to slam the door shut. We think it is really important that the process towards EU accession of Turkey is maintained as a strong possibility," Bryant told reporters in Nicosia, Cyprus's ethnically partitioned capital.
The northern third of Cyprus is a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state recognised only by Ankara.
Greek and Turkish Cypriots started slow-moving peace talks in September 2008 in an attempt to unite the island under a federal umbrella. The two communities live apart, split by a United Nations-patrolled buffer zone. Britain is one of the largest contributors to the peacekeeping force.
Although the peace talks and Turkey's EU membership negotiations are separate processes, a breakthrough on one is likely to have a positive impact on the other.
Cyprus is a former British colony and Britain is a guarantor power of Cypriot sovereignty.
Britain recently offered to relinquish up to half of the sovereign territory it retained in Cyprus, about three percent of its landmass now used partially for military purposes. The offer is contingent on a peace deal between the two Cypriot sides.
(Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Victoria Main)

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