- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 7, 2005

NICOSIA, Cyprus — The latest U.S. effort to break the Cyprus deadlock has failed to make a dent on the island’s partition, which appears to be the only feasible course for the foreseeable future.

Following a tour of Cyprus, Athens and Ankara, Turkey, last week, Laura Kennedy, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, concluded that progress can be achieved only on the basis of last year’s United Nations proposal rejected by the Greek Cypriots in a referendum.

“The ball is in the court of the government of Cyprus,” she said. “The unsolved status is in no one’s interest.”

While Mehmet Ali Talat, president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), reiterated willingness to accept the U.N. plan as the basis for further discussions, Greek-Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos maintained his objections.

The Greek-Cypriot side feels the plan favors the island’s Turkish minority, does not guarantee the return of refugees to their homes in the Turkish-controlled area, nor the withdrawal of some 30,000 troops.

In view of the continuing deadlock, the best Miss Kennedy could offer was the promise of some unspecified efforts to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and eliminate the economic inequality between the antagonists. The Turkish-Cypriot per-capita income is one-third of that of the Greek Cypriots.

Although some Greek Cypriots interpreted Miss Kennedy’s statements as reflecting a U.S. bias, the pro-government Phileleftheros daily said her talks with the Greek side took place “in an exceptionally good climate.”

There was speculation that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan would dispatch an envoy to assess prospects for a resumption of negotiations to end the island’s division. However, so far Mr. Papadopoulos has refused to put his objections to the U.N. plan in writing.

Earlier, he said “we will not accept arbitration from a foreigner again.”

Some diplomats and other observers feel the U.N. plan calling for a federation with a rotating presidency is impractical because it was drafted by outsiders with superficial knowledge of the island and the intractable nature of the conflict.

Marring any prospects for a resumption of negotiations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots is the continuing influx of Turkish mainland immigrants to the TRNC. Greek-Cypriot officials estimate settler population at 150,000 — or considerably more than that of the Turkish Cypriots, many of whom have left the island in recent years.

Greek-Cypriot officials consider such immigration as dramatically changing the demographic makeup of Cyprus. They fear that soon they will have to face a population in the north that represents Turkey’s interests.

Any evolution of the situation in Cyprus is considerably hampered by the overwhelming rejection by the Greek Cypriots of the U.N. plan — hailed by Washington and the European Union as the best possible solution.

By joining the EU last year, the Greek Cypriots hoped for European support for their cause, but the union now appears to be favoring the Turkish Cypriots, who voted in favor of the solution proposed by the United Nations.

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