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Turkish Cypriot leader hopes for trade breakthrough by June

(BRUSSELS) - Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat expressed optimism Tuesday that the economic isolation of the northern third of the divided island could be over by the end of June.

He told reporters that he thought the German European Union presidency, whose term at the EU's helm ends on June 30, was striving to finalise a "direct trade regulation" ending commercial restrictions on his community.

"I hope and I believe (the regulation) will be adopted," he said on a trip to Brussels. "We expect the adoption towards the end of term of the German presidency, but of course we don't have any timetable."

The 27 EU countries, including the southern Greek Cypriot part of the island, agreed last month to work toward lifting the trade isolation of northern Cyprus "without delay."

Germany has worked since then, notably with EU member Cyprus, to find a solution to the problem, EU officials have said.

In December, the EU decided to partially suspend Turkey's membership talks with the bloc in punishment for Ankara's refusal to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot traffic.

Turkey has refused to do so until the EU lives up to its pledge to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot statelet, which is recognised only by Ankara.

The island was divided in 1974 when Turkey seized the north in response to an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

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