US Tells Turkey Push Turkish Cypriots for Deal

ANKARA (Reuters) –The US envoy for Cyprus urged Turkey on Monday to put pressure on the Turkish Cypriots after elections due in December to help ensure the island joins the European Union next year reunited–a Turkish official said. Peace talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots have stalled and diplomats say they are unlikely to resume until at least after December’s general election in Rauf Denktash’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot enclave–which is recognized only by Ankara.

Cyprus is due to join the EU next May but without a peace deal only the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot part of the island will enter–leaving the Turkish Cypriots out in the cold and possibly complicating Turkey’s own membership hopes.

"(The US envoy Thomas) Weston wants Turkey to focus on a solution after the election and to put more pressure on the (Turkish Cypriots),” a senior Turkish official told reporters.

Weston said the United States still regarded a blueprint brokered by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and rejected by Denktash as the best basis for a solution–the official said.

Despite reservations–Turkey is also ready to use the Annan plan as a basis for further negotiations–the official said.

The Annan plan envisages broad autonomy for the two ethnic communities within a loose federal framework–along with some exchanges of territory and population.

Cyprus has been split on ethnic lines since Turkey invaded the northern part of the island in 1974 after a brief Greek Cypriot coup backed by the military junta then ruling Greece.

Turkey keeps an estimated 30,000 troops on the island and provides financial aid to Denktash–whose enclave is the target of an international trade embargo. Both Turkey and Denktash fear the minority Turkish Cypriots will be swamped in a reunited Cyprus by the more populous and much wealthier Greek Cypriots.

The Turkish official said Weston had expressed concern about whether the December election would be fair and independent.

Turkey said it would welcome election monitors from outside but acknowledged that this might prove a problem as it could signify international recognition of Denktash’s enclave.

Weston himself declined to comment on Monday’s talks–but said he would also visit Greece and Cyprus after Ankara.

Continued deadlock in Cyprus could cloud Turkey’s own hopes of eventually joining the EU. Once inside the EU–Cyprus– probably backed by Greece–could veto Ankara’s bid–though the Greek Cypriot government insists it wants Turkey in the EU.

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