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EU Offers $300 Million in Aid for Turkish Cypriots - 2004-04-26

The European Union has offered more than $300 million in aid for Turkish Cypriots after their opportunity for EU membership was blocked when Greek Cypriots rejected reunification of the divided island in a referendum Saturday

In a draft statement the foreign ministers said they will promote the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community to reward it for expressing a clear desire to be in the European Union. The ministers regretted that a united Cyprus will not be joining the EU on May 1, when the Union takes in 10 new countries.

The foreign ministers told the EU's headquarters in Brussels to identify more than $300 million in projects in Turkish Cyprus. This is to include money for building projects and allowing food products and other goods from Turkish Cyprus into the EU on preferential trade terms.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the north in response to a Greek Cypriot coup backed by supporters of Greece. Only Greek Cyprus will join the EU on Saturday, because the Greek Cypriot government is the only one the international community recognizes.

As Cyprus joins the EU divided, it presents a challenge of how to provide large-scale aid to Turkish Cyprus without recognizing the government there.

EU enlargement Commissioner Geunther Verheugen says it is now important to look forward to the future, and he praised Turkey and Turkish Cypriots for supporting the United Nations reunification proposal.

?Turkey was constructive and that Turkey followed its international obligations to fully support the efforts of the secretary general of the United Nations and we have to take into account, and we will take into account that the Turkish Cypriot community demonstrated a clear positive position and delivered a very convincing yes vote,? Mr. Verheugen said.

In the referendum about three fourths of Greek Cypriots voted against reunification and, about 65 percent of Turkish Cypriots accepted it.