NICOSIA (Combined Sources)–The United Kingdom’s minister to Europe Denis MacShane appeared to raise the bar for Turkish membership to the European Union–saying–"It is not possible for Turkey to become a member of the European Union while it does not recognize a member of the Union. This is legally impossible."
MacShane was in Northern Cyprus for a fact-finding visit that included meetings with a number of Turkish Cypriot politicians.
MacShane also stressed there is no justification for Turkey to retain thousands of troops on the soil of an EU member state.
In a strongly-worded message to Ankara–MacShane also called on the Turkish government to withdraw its troops from the divided island of Cyprus.
"This money could be spent on social projects that would benefit both communities," he said.
He added his belief that once normal relations between Nicosia and Ankara had begun–negotiations over the demilitarization of the island would begin under the auspices of the UN.
MacShane called on the Cypriots of both sides of the Green Line to put the "problems of the last century" behind them and work together to face new challenges.
But while pushing for Turkey’s recognition of Cyprus–the minister asked that a date to begin the Turkish accession talks be set. He added that it would be wrong to insist that Turkey removes all its troops from the island as a precondition for a starting date.