Turkish Cypriot leader to explain his views on island's division to Condoleezza Rice

Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat will visit Washington later this month for talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, an official said Monday. Talat described the invitation for the Oct. 28 visit as a "positive action" that would allow him to explain Turkish Cypriot views of the island's division to Rice, the Turkish-Cypriot TAK news agency said.

"Any action that helps in understanding the positions of the Turkish Cypriots is very important for finding a solution to the Cyprus problem," TAK quoted Talat as saying.

The Turkish Cypriot leader may also meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York, a spokesman for Talat said.

U.N.-sponsored talks on Cyprus have been deadlocked since April 2004, when Greek Cypriots rejected a reunification plan drafted by Annan. Turkish Cypriots had accepted the deal, the AP says.

The island has been divided into a Greek Cypriot south and Turkish Cypriot north since 1974, when Turkey invaded following an Athens-backed coup on the island. Cyprus joined the European Union in May 2004, but the island's division has excluded Turkish Cypriots from most benefits.

Greek Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos on Saturday voiced displeasure at the U.S. invitation to Talat.

"I do not think such moves assist the reunification of Cyprus; on the contrary they foment and breed the Turkish Cypriot side's secessionist tendencies," he said.

Turkish Cypriots declared independence in the island's northern third in 1983, but only Turkey recognizes their breakaway state.

On photo: Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.


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