Turkish Cypriot leader holds talks with Turkish minister before visit US

Mehmet Ali Talat met with Turkey's foreign minister Tuesday ahead of Talat's first visit to the United States as leader of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state, a trip that has angered Greek Cypriots. Talat is to hold talks in the United States with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday and may meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has been spearheading efforts to find a solution to the partition of the island.

His planned visit to the U.S., which he and the Turkish foreign minister emphasized was at Rice's invitation, reflects U.S. support for Turkish Cypriot efforts to reunify the island. The trip was opposed by the island's Greek-Cypriot leaders, who claim that it could hurt efforts to restart reunification talks.

Talat met with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on Tuesday, the AP reports.

A proposed settlement backed by Annan was overwhelmingly endorsed by Turkish Cypriots in a referendum last year that Talat strongly supported, but was rejected by Greek Cypriots.

Ever since, Turkey and Turkish Cypriots have been calling for international help in lifting the isolation of the north and in solving the Cyprus problem. Turkey has asked for the problem to be solved on the floor of the United Nations.

Cyprus joined the European Union last year but EU benefits will only apply in the south, which is controlled by the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot dominated government. The self-declared Turkish Cypriot state in the north is only recognized by Turkey, and EU benefits will not apply there until the island is reunified. The island was divided in 1974, when Turkey invaded in the wake of an aborted coup by supporters of union with Greece.

In May, four U.S. legislators flew into northern Cyprus in defiance of the Greek Cypriot opposition in a show of U.S. support for easing the north's isolation. The gesture was made after Turkish Cypriots backed the U.N.-supported referendum. A.M.

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