Turkish Cypriot leader backpedals from meeting Cyprus president

July 15, 2007 - 0:0

NICOSIA (AFP) -- Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat backpedaled from a planned meeting with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos on grounds that his counterpart is not genuinely committed to reconciliation in the long-divided island.

"Fixing a date for a meeting between the two leaders is not appropriate at the moment," Talat's undersecretary, Rasit Pertev, told reporters after a meeting with UN officials in the buffer zone bisecting the island. Talat changed his mind after the Greek Cypriot authorities exerted pressure for the cancellation of a planned football game between a Turkish Cypriot team and an English club on Wednesday evening, Pertev said. He added he had explained to the UN, "our indignation with the Greek Cypriot side for having done its best to prevent the game" between Luton Town and Cetinkaya. Greek Cypriots are opposed to any move that may imply international recognition for Talat's self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which only Turkey recognizes. Talat on Tuesday had welcomed a proposal by Papadopoulos for a face-to-face meeting, saying it was a "ray of hope" to revive UN-sponsored peace talks end Cyprus' 33-year division. No date was set for the meeting, but Talat said Papadopoulos suggested it took place before the end of the month. The peace process on the island stalled in 2004 after a UN settlement plan failed when the Greek Cypriots voted against it in a referendum, despite the Turkish Cypriot community's overwhelming approval. Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkey invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered coup aiming to unite the island with Greece. Cyprus became a member of the European Union in 2004 but its laws do not extend to the TRNC