WASHINGTON – President Bush pushed his Mideast and Iraq agendas Wednesday in phone discussions with the leaders of Bahrain and Turkey.
In a call to Bahrain's king, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (search), Bush talked about efforts to bring stability to Iraq since major combat ended there, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.
Bush also mentioned his "regard" for reform steps under way in Bahrain, Fleischer said. The Persian Gulf ally has given women the right to vote and run for office and held its first parliamentary elections in three decades last October. This fall, the United States and Bahrain are sponsoring a regional forum on judicial reforms as part of the Bush administration's Mideast peace efforts.
In a separate conversation, Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (search) jointly committed to rebuilding Iraq with its current borders intact and agreed on the importance to the region of working for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Expressing hope for a settlement to the division of Cyprus, the leaders also "welcomed unprecedented freedom of movement" between the Turkish and Greek sectors of the Mediterranean island, Fleischer said.
But Bush told Erdogan he supports a settlement based on a "fair and balanced" plan devised by the United Nations, Fleischer said. Turkish Cyprus rejected that proposal in March, saying it did not adequately address their security concerns.
Erdogan said during a visit to Cyprus (search) last week that Turkey would lift its decades-old trade ban on Greek Cypriots and urged Greece to do the same for the Turkish portion of the divided Mediterranean island. But he insisted any solution to the division of the island be based on two separate states, a sticking point in negotiations.
Last month, the Turkish Cypriot leadership lifted a travel ban, spurring a mass movement that has increased pressure for a solution.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey sent troops to repel a Greek-sponsored takeover attempt. In 1983, the Turkish-held portion declared itself an independent republic, but only Turkey recognizes the separate nation. The wealthier Greek southern half, known as Cyprus, is scheduled to join the European Union next year.
The Turkish sector wants in too, but it can't happen as long as Cyprus remains divided.