- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 29, 2005

Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat warned yesterday that frustration is building over his community’s continuing international isolation despite the vote last year for a U.N. plan to reunify Cyprus.

“There is a backlash among our people already, because we haven’t seen the results we were told we would see,” said Mr. Talat, president of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, in an interview.

“One side — the Turkish Cypriots — chose the path of compromise, while the other side — the Greek-Cypriot community — did not. Yet we are the ones who remain isolated,” he said.

Mr. Talat met yesterday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to press for renewed U.S. and international action to end the 30-year partition of Cyprus, and to ease economic and diplomatic sanctions on the Turkish north. He meets early next week in New York with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who personally endorsed the reunification plan.

Mr. Talat’s official visit at the State Department drew protests from the Greek-Cypriot-dominated government in Nicosia and from Greece.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that the Talat visit reflected longstanding U.S. support for a peaceful Cyprus settlement and did not signal any change in the Bush administration’s strong support of the Annan compromise plan.

“There’s no change in our policy regarding recognition” of the Turkish-Cypriot republic, Mr. McCormack said. “We support [both] parties re-engaging with Mr. Annan to find a solution.”

The Turkish-Cypriot state, formed after the violent split of the island in 1974, is recognized only by Turkey. But its diplomatic fortunes soared in the wake of the April 2004 referendum, when 65 percent of Turkish Cypriots endorsed the Annan compromise, while the majority Greek Cypriots rejected it by a 3-to-1 margin.

Mr. Talat cited comments by Mr. Annan and European leaders right after the vote praising the Turkish-Cypriot result. Mr. Annan wrote that the Turkish-Cypriot support for the compromise plan “has undone any rationale for pressuring and isolating them.”

But Mr. Talat complained that the European Union has taken no concrete steps since the referendum on issues ranging from diplomatic recognition to direct airline service and foreign investment. He said Turkish-Cypriot sports teams are even banned from international competitions because of continued opposition from the officially recognized Greek-Cypriot state, a source of popular resentment.

“We heard some very strong words, but the restrictions are all still there,” he said.

Mr. Talat said Turkish Cypriots were not seeking a “reward” for their vote. He argued that ending the republic’s isolation will boost its economy and make reunification with the more prosperous Greek side of the island easier.

Despite their frustration, Turkish Cypriots remain strongly behind the Annan plan for now, Mr. Talat said. But he cautioned that the Turkish side would seek its own changes to the Annan proposal if the Greek side sought any changes.

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