- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 6, 2005

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Greek-Cypriot leaders are upset at efforts by their Turkish-Cypriot counterparts to break out of diplomatic isolation, creating new strains between the communities.

Particularly irksome was a visit to New York and Washington last week by Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, closely followed by four members of the Turkish-Cypriot parliament, who attended a Washington seminar.

“The U.S. moves promote divisive tendencies instead of bringing about reunification,” charged Greek-Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos. “They create hope that the [Turkish] occupation regime could possibly be upgraded to a separate legal entity.”

Mr. Talat retorted that in his talk with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he merely asked the Americans “to continue their path, their line of supporting the lifting of isolation of Turkish Cypriots and to further encourage other countries to take similar steps.”

A State Department spokesman said Washington wanted to help the Mediterranean island move toward reunification by reducing economic disparities between the two sides. Greek-Cypriot per-capita income at $16,000 a year is roughly three times that of the Turkish Cypriots.

Hopes for reunification have been steadily deteriorating since the Greek Cypriots rejected, in a referendum 18 months ago, a unification plan submitted by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The plan was accepted by the Turkish Cypriots, but Gustave Feissel, who served as U.N. representative in Cyprus for 14 years, said last week that in view of the persisting hostility, it should be scrapped.

The English-language Cyprus Mail quoted Mr. Feissel as saying after talks on the island that although the plan was “a very sincere effort … it has left such a bad taste in people’s mouths that trying to fix it would be nearly impossible.”

Although the Greek side has acquired a “security blanket” through its admission to the European Union, Mr. Feissel said the Cyprus issue is “heading nowhere.”

The fact that Cypriots can now cross the dividing Attila Line without hindrance has not advanced relations between the communities, Mr. Feissel added.

“One ought to keep in mind that time is running out. There is a danger that the Turkish-Cypriot community will gradually wither away” in the face of continuing immigration to the north by settlers from Turkey.

“If they continue the way they are going, one fine day, we’ll wake up and find no solution is possible,” Mr. Feissel said. “If partition is the solution, then what will happen is that the people on the [northern] side will be Turkish, not Turkish Cypriots.”

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