Turkey would consider annexing northern Cyprus, which is technically EU territory, if talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots fail to reach a deal on reunification of the island, Turkey's European Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış told a Turkish Cypriot newspaper.

Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Derviş Eroğlu have made little progress in negotiations to reunite the island, divided in 1974, since the United Nations persuaded them to renew efforts late last year (see background).

Bağış told Turkish Cypriot newspaper Kıbrıs that Turkey would support any agreement reached by the two sides, but said that was only one of several possible outcomes.

Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Derviş Eroğlu have made little progress in negotiations to reunite the island, divided in 1974, since the United Nations persuaded them to renew efforts late last year (see background).

Bağış told Turkish Cypriot newspaper Kıbrıs that Turkey would support any agreement reached by the two sides, but said that was only one of several possible outcomes.

Bağış told Kıbrıs during an interview in London that the options "on the table" include "reunification under a deal that [the two] leaders could reach, creation of two independent states after an agreement between the two leaders if they are unable to reach a deal for reunification, or annexation of the KKTC [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] to Turkey." 

Many Turkish Cypriots oppose the notion of annexation. Turkey's NTV news channel quoted Özkan Yorgancıoğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican Turks Party (CTP), as saying the idea was unacceptable.

The division of Cyprus has been used to slow Turkey's efforts to join the EU. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is opposed to Turkey joining and German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she favours a "privileged partnership" for Turkey.

Frustrated by the lack of progress, Turkey has said if there was no solution by 1 July,  when Cyprus takes over the European Union presidency, it would suspend dialogue until the presidency passes to another EU member in 2013.

Turkey has stationed troops in the north since invading in 1974, after a coup in Cyprus orchestrated by a military junta in Athens.

Northern Cyprus is only recognised only by Ankara and its only air link is with Turkey. It is also excluded from international sport, finance and trade, and it has been heavily subsidised by Ankara.

The dispute took a serious turn in September when Cyprus allowed gas exploration drilling to commence. That prompted Turkey to dispatch naval ships to the Eastern Mediterranean, saying that any gas found would belong to all Cypriots.