ISTANBUL - Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat departed on Tuesday for the United States, where he will meet U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss the ongoing peace talks to reunify the divided Mediterranean island.
Talat, who is in Washington at the invitation of Clinton, is expected to convey to the United States the views of Turkish Cypriots regarding the ongoing peace talks and to urge Washington to maintain its interest in the process, diplomatic sources say.
"Of course, I am attaching the utmost importance to this visit and I consider it as an important step in our foreign relations," Talat was quoted by Anatolian Agency as telling a press meeting before his departure from Istanbul's Ataturk Airport.
"The visit shows the importance the U.S. administration attaches to the views of the Turkish Cypriot side," he added.
Relaunched in September 2008 after a four-year hiatus, Talat and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Demetris Christofias have been involved in reunification talks aimed at reaching an agreement to end the island's decades-long division. The talks mark the first major push for peace since the failure of a U.N. reunification plan in 2004, which was approved by Turkish Cypriots but overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots.
The leaders are making "real progress" on reunification talks as the international community expects an end result, the U.N. special envoy said after 25th meeting between the leaders last week.