Accessibility links

US Pledges Aid Offer to Turkish Cypriots - 2004-04-26

The United States said that it will follow the lead of the European Union and offer aid to Turkish Cypriots after the U.N. plan for reunifying the divided island was voted down by the Greek-Cypriot side. The State Department is accusing Greek-Cypriot authorities of manipulating the vote.

The Bush administration had strongly supported the Cyprus peace initiative by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and senior officials here are expressing disappointment over the results of the twin referenda Saturday, in which the Annan plan was approved by the Turkish Cypriots, but overwhelmingly rejected by the Greek Cypriot community.

The outcome means that only the internationally-recognized Greek Cypriot republic will enter the European Union on May 1. U.S. officials had made clear in advance that the Turkish Cypriots would not be "left out in the cold" in the event the plan was turned down by the Greek side.

In a talk with reporters after discussing Cyprus and other issues with Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States is prepared to follow the lead of the European Union, which said Monday it will provide over $300 million to help boost the lagging economy of the Turkish side of the island.

"Obviously we were very disappointed," he said. "We believe that an important opportunity was lost, but the people have spoken. One must listen to the will of the people when they speak through referenda or through other means of expressing their will. The European Union is meeting on it today and I think they have made some statements about how they will continue to provide assistance to Turkish Cypriots. We are reviewing our position and will be also be reviewing the actions of the European Union to make sure that we are acting in a way that is consistent with our European colleagues."

Mr. Powell declined to elaborate on the nature of U.S. assistance but a senior official here said it would stop short of diplomatic recognition for the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey.

At the same time, the official indicated that Turkish Cypriots might receive some or all of the $400 million the United States had pledged in Brussels earlier this month for Cyprus-wide redevelopment aid in the event the U.N. plan had won approval.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher hailed the courage of the nearly 65 percent majority of Turkish Cypriot voters who supported the Annan plan in Saturday's voting as well as the 25 percent of Greek Cypriots who backed it despite what he called campaign "manipulation" by Greek Cypriot authorities.

He said that the Greek-Cypriot broadcasting authority limited coverage of foreign endorsements of the settlement plan while giving advocates of a "no-vote," including Cypriot President Tassos Papadapolous, twice as much air time as advocates of the U.N. plan.

He also said Greek-Cypriot schoolchildren were encouraged to vote "no" and given anti-settlement campaign materials and said that not one Greek Cypriot official spoke out against what he said were "numerous shameful incidents" of threats and intimidation against supporters of the Annan plan on the Greek side.

The lopsided vote against the plan was attributed in part to promises by Greek-Cypriot officials that a follow-on plan more favorable to Greek-Cypriot interests would be forthcoming after a "no" vote. However, spokesman Boucher insisted that no new Cyprus negotiations are expected in the foreseeable future and there is no other deal available.