- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 21, 2005

April 24 is a special day for Turkish Cypriots. A year ago that day they voted for reunifying Cyprus — our beloved island and common home with the Greek Cypriots for the last 450 years. But is Cyprus just an island?

At this point I remember the words of the great English poet, John Donne, who famously wrote “no man is an island,” and feel tempted to extend the analogy to “no island is an island.” I believe what happens in Cyprus has ripple effects beyond the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Although the United Nations plan for settling the Cyprus problem (the Annan Plan) did not go through on account of our Greek Cypriot partners’ “oxi” (no) vote, Turkish Cypriots have maintained adherence to a peaceful solution. In the two democratic elections since — one parliamentary, one presidential — they voted into office parties and politicians who advocated a united Cyprus within the European Union. The international community must support and nurture this vision.

As winner of the presidential election on the anniversary of the referenda, I feel honored by the trust my people have invested in me and my policies, yet humbled by the enormity of my task.

Cyprus is no ordinary island. It sits not astride the crossroads of ancient civilizations but also near one of the world’s most volatile regions. Its longstanding division, while seemingly internal, is a symptom of the differences between two regional powers and, on a larger scale, between two great civilizations.

Turkish Cypriots are cognizant of the positive role their island could play in this complex web of national, regional and international interests.

However, when I look south across the “Green Line” that divides our island, I see a leadership that, unfortunately, lacks any incentive for a settlement, believing its comfortable position will last forever as the recognized “government” supported by unchallenged European Union membership with all the economic, political and psychological benefits that entails.

I have no way to challenge the calcified position of Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos and his cohorts, except to try to expose him and his uncompromising policy toward Turkish Cypriots. I can hope increasing international pressure will make a difference.

But meanwhile, my people, who have undergone a remarkable transformation, continue suffering isolation instigated by the Greek Cypriot administration. Efforts to get this isolation lifted or at least eased, particularly within the EU, have been thwarted by the Greek Cypriot side. While EU leaders express consternation at this unconstructive attitude, they have not yet found a way to overcome the legal and political obstacles presented to them by “club-member Cyprus.”

I believe the United States, which has moved to ease the inhuman restrictions on Turkish Cypriots, will show greater determination and lead to end the isolation. As the world’s only major power not encumbered by Greek Cypriot obstructionism, the United States is uniquely capable of doing so.

Cyprus is a small yet important part of the world whose bright skies are darkened only by the ghosts of the past and the chauvinistic practices of the present. Small as it is, Cyprus presents a challenge to the civilized world to do justice, where justice is due.

As I again extend my hand in peace and friendship to the Greek Cypriots, I call on the international community to heed our call for justice and fairness. President Bush’s Inaugural address, in its pledge to spread freedom and democracy “to the darkest corners of the world,” inspires all believers in these universal values.

With U.S. leadership and concerted international efforts, Cyprus can become a beacon of peace and freedom in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and beyond.

Mehmet Ali Talat is president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

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