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Published: Saturday, 5/1/2010

Cyprus' divided hopes

THE recent election of nationalist Dervis Eroglu as president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, who defeated incumbent Mehmet Ali Talat, was a setback for settlement of the Cyprus problem.

Since its division in 1974, Cyprus has been a problem for its distinct parts' sponsors. These include not only Greece and Turkey, but also NATO and the European Union.

In 2004, the EU could have forced a solution to the issue, but lost its nerve.

Greek Cyprus wanted to join the union. It was supported by Greece, a longtime EU member. The EU could have said no until the island was reunified, thus forcing negotiations.

But Greece told the EU it would block the applications of countries backed by other EU members unless Greek Cyprus was let in, without reunification.

The EU caved in, and Greek Cyprus was admitted.

Mr. Talat, who lost the election, had been negotiating under United Nations sponsorship with Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias since 2008. Mr. Talat may have lost the election because of the EU's failure to honor a pledge it made at the time of Greek Cyprus' entrance to hold direct trade talks with Turkish Cyprus.

The matter now seems at an impasse. Greece and Greek Cyprus are blocking Turkey's entrance to the EU. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the talks with Greek Cypriot leaders will resume.

It will be interesting to see whether Mr. Talat agrees.

The United States' interest in the matter is in seeing that differences between Greece and Turkey on Cyprus do not disrupt the smooth operation of NATO.

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