WASHINGTON - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday he saw a good opportunity for progress towards ending the division of Cyprus, a move that could further the exploitation of natural gas and oil in the eastern Mediterranean.
The island has been divided since a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by a Turkish invasion of the north in 1974. Turkey keeps some 30,000 troops in the north and is the only nation to recognize the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Efforts to reunite the island have repeatedly failed, but Turkish officials say the election in February of President Nicos Anastasiades, who backed a 2004 UN plan to resolve the division, presents the best hope in years of reaching a deal.
"We believe that there is a lot of opportunity to reach an agreement on the Cyprus issue, and this is an area which we continue to focus on," Erdogan said at a news conference with US President Barack Obama during a trip to Washington.