The Bush administration is urging Cypriots to support a U.N. plan to reunify the Mediterranean island. Ethnic Turks and Greeks in Cyprus will vote on the plan Saturday.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the vote is an historic opportunity for Cypriots to control their own political destiny for the first time in decades.
He says U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has come up with a fair and balanced settlement that offers a hopeful vision of a peaceful and prosperous future in a unified, federated state that honors its diverse traditions.
"The settlement that the secretary general finalized on March 31 outlines an equitable compromise in which no party receives everything it seeks but which satisfies the fundamental requirements of all parties," Scott McClellan said.
Many Greek Cypriots lost their homes when Turkish troops seized the northern third of the island in 1974 after a coup by Greek Cypriots seeking union with Greece.
The U.N. plan calls for the return of over 120,000 of those Greek Cypriot refugees, the reduction of foreign troops, and the enshrinement of human rights and democratic freedoms.
If Cypriots accept that plan, Mr. McClellan they will not stand alone as the United States and European Union have already pledged more than $800 million to ensure that the reunification takes place.
"The friends of Cyprus around the world are extending heartfelt encouragement for the people of Cyprus to make the decision of a lifetime on April 24 in favor of peace, prosperity, and unity with the European and Trans-Atlantic families," he said.
Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos has called for his supporters to reject the U.N. plan. Most local media in Greek areas are reportedly focusing on pro-Turk aspects of the plan including Turkey's right to maintain some troops on the island and to limit the rights of Greek Cypriots returning to their residences in the north.
European diplomats say EU and U.N. officials have been denied air time on two Greek Cypriot TV stations. If either the Greek or Turkish Cypriots reject the plan in separate referenda, only the Greek-led part of Cyprus will enjoy the benefits of membership in the European Union when Cyprus joins that group May 1.