During the past week, Tom Weston, the State Department's special coordinator for Cyprus, twice referred to Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Talat as the leader of the Turkish Cypriot people. The department had previously recognized veteran Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
"Secretary (Colin) Powell has met with Mr. Mehmet Ali Talat in his capacity as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, and U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus Michael Klosson has called on Mr. Talat as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community," the State Department said in a statement. "Our position is that he is the leader of the Turkish Cypriots."
Talat was a key supporter of last month's failed referendum for the reunification of Cyprus. Although the Turkish part of the island voted to reunification, Greek-Cypriots rejected it. The island has been divided since 1974 following a Turkish invasion.
Denktash indicated earlier this month he may not seek re-election as president.