Bosnian leader asks for Turkey's understanding over Cyprus ties

SARAJEVO, Mar 1, 2000 -- (Reuters) Bosnian leader Alija Izetbegovic on Tuesday asked for Turkey's "understanding" over his country's decision to establish diplomatic ties with Cyprus, Bosnian radio reported Tuesday.

In a letter to Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, Izetbegovic said the move was a "bitter" outcome of compromises made in the U.S.-brokered Dayton peace accords which ended the 1992-95 war among Croats, Muslims and Serbs.

"From Turkey and other friendly countries we demand understanding for such a policy," said Izetbegovic, who this month took over the rotating chairmanship of Bosnia's collective presidency.

Diplomatic ties between Sarajevo and Cyprus were established in February, following a decision by Bosnia's presidency in October.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem on Saturday warned Bosnia and Macedonia over their plans to open embassies in the internationally-recognized Greek-Cypriot side of Cyprus instead of in the breakaway Turkish north.

But Bosnian Foreign Minister Jadranko Prlic told a Sarajevo daily Sunday that he did not understand why the diplomatic ties should be a problem since "all the European Union countries have established diplomatic relations with that state."

"We know that Cyprus is a painful issue for Turkey, but our diplomacy will not be a hostage of someone's interests," Prlic told the Oslobodjenje daily.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded and occupied the northern third in 1974 following a coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash declared the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983 but it is recognized only by Ankara.

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