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US Envoy Welcomes Unity Move by Turkish Cypriot Opposition - 2003-09-08

The U.S. special coordinator for Cyprus has welcomed the decision of three Turkish Cypriot opposition parties to unite in a bid to defeat veteran leader Rauf Denktash in December parliamentary elections.

Thomas Weston told reporters in Rome the United States believes the position of the three parties is more amenable to a settlement of the division of Cyprus based on a plan proposed by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

The three parties last week announced that if they emerge victorious in the vote they will relieve Mr. Denktash of his role as chief negotiator in talks on resolving the division of the island.

The United Nations has blamed Mr. Denktash for the breakdown of talks on the issue earlier this year.

Even if no settlement is reached, Cyprus is set to join the European Union next May. However, the benefits of EU membership will only apply to the areas controlled by the island's Greek-led government.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the island in response to a coup in Nicosia backed by Greece's then-military government.