Cyprus Leader Faults Turkey on Unity Deal Failure

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters)–Cyprus’ president–Tassos Papadopoulos–blamed Turkey on Thursday for the lack of fresh progress on a plan to reunite his divided Mediterranean island since negotiations collapsed in March.

While Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has boasted of being responsible for blocking a UN-brokered peace initiative–Papadopoulos said policy was set in the Turkish capital–Ankara–and might change only if there was a lopsided defeat of Denktash in the Dec. 14 general election.

"It is my view that all decisions regarding Cyprus are taken by Ankara–including who is going to represent the Turkish Cypriot community in the talks,” the Cypriot leader told a news conference at UN headquarters.

"My own view is for Mr. Denktash to be voted out of office–he must be voted out by such a substantial margin that Ankara would feel either obliged–or use that as an excuse–to replace Mr. Denktash,” Papadopoulos said.

"With somebody else–at least there may be the hope that we will meet with a different attitude posed by Ankara and by the local people,” he said.

Denktash told Reuters last week he was confident Turkish Cypriot voters would back his rejection of the peace plan–despite the widespread international criticism of his stance.

But Papadopoulos told the UN General Assembly that "the overwhelming majority of the Turkish Cypriots themselves” backed reunification and wanted to share in the benefits when Cyprus entered the European Union next year.

Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974–when Turkey invaded the poorer northern third of the island in response to a Greek Cypriot coup backed by the military junta then ruling Greece.

Turkey is the only country that recognizes Denktash’s statelet–separated from the rest of the island by a corridor of heavily mined land patrolled by UN peacekeepers.

Turkey has been trying to use international pressure for a unification deal as leverage on the European Union to set a date for the start of its own EU accession talks.

EU officials say Turkey will not get a start date until it accepts a deal on Cyprus.

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