Israel Rejects Turkey's Cyprus Request

Israel told a visiting Cypriot minister that it has decided to reject Turkey's request to open a Turkish Cypriot representative office in Tel Aviv.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul had asked President Shimon Peres for approval for such an office during Peres' visit to Ankara last month.

Gul and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also asked Peres to examine the possibility of operating air and sea traffic between Israel and Famagusta in North Cyprus.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, who visited Israel this week, told Haaretz that Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told her Israel would reject Turkey's requests. (Full interview on Sunday.)

Israeli officials confirmed this. "We are aware of the sensitivities and have no intention of deviating from the accepted UN position," an official said.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when the Greek military junta then ruling in Athens supported a coup against the democratic Cypriot government. Turkey then invaded Cyprus and occupied the northern half of the Island. In 1983 the Turkish minority (Turkish Republic of North Cyprus - TRNC) declared independence, but the world, apart from Turkey, does not recognize it and sees the area as occupied territory of sovereign Cyprus.

Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis officially visited Israel to be briefed on developments in the peace process and to explore bilateral relations. Unofficially, according to sources involved in her visit, she also wanted to ensure Cyprus was not harmed by the warming relations between Israel and Turkey.