- The Washington Times - Friday, July 17, 2009

Thirty-five years after the Mediterranean island was split in two, Cyprus remains divided because of “belligerent” behavior on behalf of Turkey, the Cypriot ambassador to the United States said Thursday.

The Greek Cypriot government is engaged in the most advanced meetings to date with Northern Cyprus’ Turkish leader as the two attempt to hammer out a solution that appeals to both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Ambassador Andreas Kakouris told reporters and editors at The Washington Times.

But Turkey’s 43,000 troops on the island thwart the prospects of a solution, Mr. Kakouris said. “We need Turkey, Ankara, on board,” he said of the Turkish government, which backs the Turkish enclave in Northern Cyprus.

” ‘What you win with the sword, don’t give up with the pen’ - Turkey regrettably still uses this old adage,” the ambassador said. “It’s another example of the belligerent posture of Ankara.”

The Turkish Embassy in Washington did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

The Greek and Turkish communities on the island have been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded after a Greek junta attempted to unify the island with Greece.

The Greek Cypriot government, which controls the southern two-thirds of the island, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) have since made numerous unsuccessful attempts to reach a reunification agreement.

President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been meeting weekly since September. They are seeking a solution in which a central government would represent both ethnic communities, with the presidency rotating between Greeks and Turks.

The talks began by discussing government and power sharing and have moved toward property, the economy, the European Union and other issues, he said. Cyprus is a member of the EU, but its Turkish community is denied many benefits of belonging to the 27-nation bloc.

Mr. Talat has said he is “optimistic” about reaching a settlement.

“We have to finish this,” he said in April of the negotiations. “There is a great opportunity.”

The TRNC office in Washington said its government negotiates independent of Turkey’s government.

Turkey has been in negotiations to gain EU membership since 2005 and Mr. Kakouris said Cyprus, an EU member since 2004, supports Turkey’s membership, but Ankara’s relationship toward Cyprus damages Turkey’s chances of becoming a member.

“You can’t cherry pick what you like about the EU and what you don’t,” he said.

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