- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2009

Turkish officials in Cyprus are calling for more intense negotiations and international pressure in negotiations between rival Greek and Turkish Cypriots, a representative of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) said Wednesday.

The first round of talks between the Northern Cyprus’ Turkish leader and the Greek Cypriot government end Thursday. The meetings, which have lasted nearly a year, are the most recent attempt to find a solution that would unite the divided Mediterranean Island.

The island has been split between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots since 1974, when a Greek military coup attempted to unite the island, sparking a Turkish invasion. Now Turkish officials say the Greek Cypriot government does not embrace settlement measures, said Hilmi Akil, the Washington representative of the TRNC.

“We are not happy at the pace the talks are going. We want more frequent negotiations, a time frame and more action by the U.S. and international community,” Mr. Akil told reporters and editors at The Washington Times. “They refuse.”

Mr. Akil said the TRNC has asked for a U.S. special envoy, but the request has been blocked by the Greek Cypriot government.

The southern two-thirds of the island and the majority of the Cypriot government are made up of Greek Cypriots and the northern third is represented by the TRNC, which is not internationally recognized except by Turkey.

Cyprus is a member of the European Union, but the Cypriot government denies Northern Cyprus many benefits of belonging to the 27-nation bloc, such as open air and sea ports, which would allow Northern Cyprus to be more competitive economically.

Greek Cypriot officials say Turkey’s 40,000 troops on the island are the biggest deterrence to reunification, Cypriot Ambassador to Washington Andreas Kakouris told The Times earlier this month. The troops are unnecessary and exemplify the “belligerent posture of Ankara,” he said. Turkey backs the enclave in Northern Cyprus.

Turkish troops remain on the island because the Greek Cypriot military poses a threat to the TRNC, Mr. Akil said.

“The threat is there,” he said. “They still act as if they have sovereignty over all the island.”

Mr. Akil said about 16,000 Greek Cypriot and mainland Greek troops are stationed on the island with 70,000 reserves. He said Turkish troops will be withdrawn when a settlement is reached.

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.

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