Turkish President Abdullah Gul flew in to northern Cyprus Tuesday for his first foreign visit since taking office, urging an end to the economic isolation of Turkish Cypriot state.
Gul was accompanied by wife Hayrunnisa, making her first public appearance as first lady, after having kept out of the spotlight amid strong objections by secularists to her Islamic headscarf.
Before leaving Ankara, Gul said he would meet Turkish Cypriot leaders to discuss the island's division and ways to strengthen ties between Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
"The promises the international community made to the Turkish Cypriot people are still remembered. But unfortunately, restrictions on the TRNC continue," said the president, who took office last month.
"We expect the international community to end those unjust practices as soon as possible," he said.
"Turkish party fulfilled its duties regarding a fair, lasting and comprehensive settlement in Cyprus. We still remember the commitments made by the international community for the sake of Cypriot Turks. But isolations on TRNC are still there. We hope that international community will honor its commitments," Gul underlined.
Indicating that the TRNC economy made great progress in recent years, Gul said, "I believe that TRNC will become an important tourist destination in East Mediterranean."
He was referring to European Union pledges to ease the economic isolation of the TRNC, as a reward for the overwhelming support of Turkish Cypriots for a UN peace plan to reunify Cyprus in April 2004.
The plan was killed off by a resounding "no" on the Greek Cypriot side, in a simultaneous referendum.
The outcome ensured that the Greek Cypriots - who represent the internationally-recognized government in the south - alone, joined the EU in May that year.
Cyprus remains a major block for Turkey's own EU membership bid, with Ankara accusing the Greek Cypriots of using their membership as a leverage to extract concessions on the island.
Last Mod: 18 Eylül 2007, 17:08
Turkey entered the northern third of Cyprus in 1974, in response to an Athens-engineered Greek Cypriot coup in Nicosia, aimed at uniting the island with Greece. It still maintains about 40,000 troops in the TRNC.
Gul was to hold talks, later Tuesday, with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and other senior officials, and also address the Turkish Cypriot parliament Wednesday, before returning to Ankara.