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12/18/03 - HOPEFUL SIGN FOR CYPRUS - 2003-12-18

Turkish Cypriot voters went to the polls on December 14th to choose their self-designated parliament. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the results were good news for all Cypriots:

"In their vote on Sunday, Turkish Cypriots expressed their desire for a comprehensive Cyprus settlement that will enable them to join the E-U [European Union] next May 1st, alongside the Greek Cypriots. A pro-solution party won the greatest number of votes, and more than half of all voters supported candidates who favor having a settlement approved by the Cypriots in referenda before May."

Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided into the government-controlled two-thirds of the island and the Turkish Cypriot one-third. The government of Cyprus, informally known as Southern Cyprus, is recognized by all countries except Turkey. The United Nations has been trying to broker an agreement between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots that will bring unity, security, and respect for human rights to everyone on the island. Greek Cypriots want freedom of movement, the return of expropriated property, and the return of territory. Turkish Cypriots want a high degree of autonomy, security guarantees, and political equality between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities.

In November 2002, U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan released a plan for the resolution of the Cyprus issue. It has undergone several revisions and provides for an island of two distinct communities but with one national government.

State Department spokesman Boucher says it is time for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots to implement the plan:

"The United States will continue to promote a just and durable solution to the longstanding division of the island on the basis of U-N Secretary General Annan's peace plan. We hope the Turkish Cypriot desire for a settlement will be honored by the swift resumption of U-N-brokered negotiations."

As U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus, Michael Klosson, pointed out, "the choice Cypriots face isn't between the Annan Plan and a hypothetical 'better plan' -- one that hasn't been drafted yet. The choice is between negotiating the Annan Plan and no solution for the foreseeable future."