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Greece says Turkish Cypriot situation 'not viable'

ATHENS - Agence France-Presse | 3/4/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Greece said Thursday that the situation of Turkish Cypriots was not viable, after thousands demonstrated on the island against an Ankara-imposed austerity plan.

Greece said Thursday that the situation of Turkish Cypriots was not viable, after thousands of them demonstrated on the divided island against an austerity plan imposed by Ankara on their state.

“The situation in the occupied territories is not viable... it prevents the whole of the people of Cyprus from benefiting from their membership of the European Union,” a Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman said at a news briefing in Athens. “The occupation of the territories, the presence of the army and of colonists exercise a huge pressure on the Turkish Cypriots, who have reached the end of their patience.”

Unions said that some 50,000 Turkish Cypriots had demonstrated Wednesday in Nicosia against the austerity plan imposed by Turkey on Turkish Cyprus. It was the second such demonstration in six weeks.

In a similar demonstration Jan. 28, Turkish Cypriot trade unions unfurled banners urging Ankara “to get its hands off [Cypriot] shores.” The rally angered Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who harshly criticized the protests targeting his government.

Economic activity in the north has slowed as a result of international restrictions, while the Greek south is enjoying the benefits of membership in the European Union, which it joined in 2004.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman called on Turkish Cypriot leader Derviş Eroğlu “to change his position” and on Turkey to “assume its responsibilities and negotiate” a reunification of the island.

Cyprus was split into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey intervened after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Ongoing reunification process negotiations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, sponsored by the United Nations and begun in 2008, have made little tangible progress.

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