NEWS

US aids Turk Cypriots

Washington’s measures of support for the Turkish Cypriots, which had been expected since the April 24 referendum, began to take shape yesterday. A State Department official announced a series of measures to help the Turkish Cypriots break out of their isolation. The Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s reunification plan ahead of Cyprus’s EU accession on May 1. Greek Cypriots rejected the plan overwhelmingly, meaning that only they and not the Turkish Cypriots will enjoy the benefits of EU accession. The EU and United States have said they will offer assistance to the Turkish Cypriots and develop ties with them but will stop short of offering recognition to the Turkish-Cypriot breakaway state. According to sources, Washington has decided to offer $50 million in economic assistance to the Turkish Cypriots. It will also adopt measures to improve trade relations and this may imply, in the initial phase, acceptance of the health certificates that the Turkish-Cypriot authorities will issue for their products. Tourism will be helped through the creation of tour packages which, for the time being, will be aimed at US troops currently stationed at Turkish bases. Fourth, it was decided to simplify procedures for Turkish Cypriots seeking visas for the United States. Washington will also help the Turkish Cypriots to forge relations with international organizations and agencies (such as postal services and sports organizations). Shortly before a State Department source listed these measures, Secretary of State Colin Powell confirmed that the United States was looking for ways in which to help the Turkish Cypriots and referred to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s visit to Washington last week. «We had a good discussion with Mr Karamanlis and we still feel that it was an opportunity that was missed when the Greek Cypriots did not approve of the referendum. And we are looking for ways in which we can move forward in the Kofi Annan plan and we’re also looking at areas in which we can assist the Turkish Cypriots with their needs as well,» Powell said. Meanwhile, Turkish-Cypriot officials said all EU citizens, including Greek Cypriots, will be able to cross into their sector using just identity cards from today. Turkish Cypriots had initially demanded that Greek Cypriots show their passports while other EU citizens could show just their identity cards.