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Tensions Increase Between Cyprus, Turkey - 2003-12-19


Tensions are brewing between Turkey and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Dentkash over how to end the three decades-long division of Cyprus. Turkey's prime minister Tayyip Erdogan has signaled he supports the U.N. plan that Mr. Denktash has rejected proposing to reunite the Turkish and Greek communities under a federal state.

The tensions between the veteran Turkish Cypriot leader and the Turkish government comes less than a week after inconclusive parliamentary elections in the Turkish controlled north of Cyprus. Prime Minister Erdogan called on the Turkish Cypriot leader to show flexibility on the reunification of Cyprus. Mr. Denktash is opposed to the U.N. plan.

International pressure is mounting on Turkey and Mr. Denktash to resume peace negotiations on the proposed U.N. peace plan. Thomas Weston, the Bush administration's emissary on Cyprus was in Ankara Friday to urge Turkish officials to press Mr. Denkatsh to accept the U.N. deal.

The U.N. plan aims to allow both the Greek and Turkish parts of Cyprus to join the European Union by creating a loose federal state that gives each ethnic community broad powers.

The plan is backed by a bloc of Turkish Cypriot opposition parties that tied with the ruling right wing groups that oppose the deal. The need to end the 30-year-long division of Cyprus has gained urgency after the European Union said it would admit the Greek part of the island together with nine other candidate countries next May even if the island remains divided.

To add their own weight behind the unification plan, EU leaders have made clear that they won't even consider Turkey's own bid to open membership talks until the Cyprus issue has been resolved.

Cyprus has been partitioned between a Greek south and a Turkish north since Turkish troops invaded the island in 1974 to counter a short-lived coup mounted by Greek Cypriot nationalists with backing from Athens.

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