US aid worth $30mln for Turk Cypriots

The United States said yesterday that it would provide $30.5 million in aid to Turkish Cypriots this year, saying it wanted to ease their isolation. This came a few days after the European Commission announced plans to provide 259 million euros in aid and initiate direct trade with the breakaway state on northern Cyprus, causing the Cypriot government to warn that it might take legal action. Nicosia fears that direct trade will constitute de facto recognition of the breakaway state. Veteran Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday claimed the EU measures do not go far enough and are aimed at keeping the Turkish Cypriots tied to the Greek Cypriots. On Thursday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher expressed strong support for the Commission’s proposal. «Let me say first, we welcome the EU’s steps,» he said. «We look forward to the measures being implemented, in particular with regard to trade from the north because that can help support the eventual reunification of the island. We have been coordinating with the European Union and we continue our review of a full range of policies and programs consistent with what the EU is doing and in cooperation and coordination with them.» Yesterday, a State Department official said the aid was the first «financial move» by the United States as part of measures to lift decades-long economic sanctions since the Turkish Cypriots overwhelmingly approved – in an April 24 referendum – a UN plan to end the 30-year division of Cyprus, the Agence France-Presse reported. «This is about supporting the Turkish Cypriots who sought to join a new arrangement that would get all Cypriots into Europe,» Boucher told reporters. It was aimed at helping the «economic development of northern Cyprus and the economic integration of the island in support of eventual reunification,» he said. «We are taking steps to ease the isolation of Turkish Cypriots. We’ve announced a series of steps already, and we’ll continue to announce things as appropriate,» he said. Among the previous steps was an easing of visa procedures.