NEWS

USA applauds Talat win, vows to back unification

WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States congratulated Mehmet Ali Talat on his election as leader of the Turkish Cypriots and pledged its help to reunify Cyprus, including assisting with the economic development of the breakaway northern portion that is under Turkish occupation. «Turkish Cypriots exercised their right to select the leader of their community in free, fair and democratic elections,» State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said in a statement circulated on Monday. «The United States welcomes this reaffirmation by Turkish Cypriots of their commitment to a comprehensive solution and reunification of the island. We look forward to working with all interested parties to this end.» Campaigning on a platform of reunifying the island, partitioned by force of Turkish arms in 1974, Talat won an overwhelming mandate on Sunday, claiming 56 percent of the vote or more than twice that of his nearest rival. He assumes office at the end of the latest five-year term of Rauf Denktash, 81, founder and only «president» of the Turkish-held north of Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey. Talat, a 53-year-old engineer educated in the Turkish capital of Ankara, appealed on Sunday to Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations, to continue to help find a solution for reunification of the Cyprus’ ethnic Greek majority in the south and the Turkish Cypriots. «The United States will continue to support the efforts of the UN secretary-general to promote a solution to the longstanding division of the island, based on (his) settlement plan and in a manner acceptable to majorities on both sides of the island,» Ereli said at the State Department. «As part of our effort to pave the way for reunification, the United States will also continue to work to ease the economic isolation of the Turkish-Cypriot community and to reduce economic disparities between the two communities through economic development in the north.» A referendum on Annan’s last effort won overwhelmingly in Turkish Cyprus but was roundly rejected by the Greek Cypriots. Many opposed provisions that limited the rights of thousands of Greek Cypriots displaced by the Turkish invasion to return to property in the north that had been seized. They also rejected the plan’s provision that would have allowed thousands of settlers from the Turkish mainland to stay.