NICOSIA (Reuters)–Turkey said on Friday it supported a Turkish Cypriot demand for Cyprus to be divided into two states–despite UN-backed efforts to reunite the Mediterranean island.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974–when Turkish soldiers invaded after a short-lived Greek Cypriot coup aimed at union with Greece.
Greek Cypriots say they can concede no more than a single federated state made up of two regions. Turkish Cypriots want a union of two states only loosely linked by a central administration.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem assured Turkish Cypriot President Rauf Denktash of his full support when he visited the island on Friday.
"We support President Denktash and the government’s model for a solution based on the condition of two states…," Cem told reporters.
Denktash and Greek Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides started a fresh round of UN-backed talks in January under pressure to clinch a deal because of Cyprus’ bid to join the European Union–perhaps as early as 2004.
Turkey has threatened to annex the northern third of the island if the EU admits Cyprus–effectively the Greek Cypriot south–without a solution.
The dispute is also linked to Turkey’s own ambitions to join the EU–which wants Ankara to press Denktash to compromise.
But Cem made clear his government stood with Denktash.