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EU urges quick talks between Greek, Turkish Cypriots after election

EU urges quick talks between Greek, Turkish Cypriots after election

Communist leader Dimitris Christofias won Cyprus' crucial presidential runoff and pledged to restart moribund talks to reunify the island, immediately agreeing to meet the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots.
The European Commission urged Christofias on Monday to act quickly restart stalled talks with the Turkish Cypriots. While Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are to meet, no date or venue has been set.
Reunification would remove one of the obstacles to Turkey's efforts to join the EU and could ease strong objections to Kosovo's new independence among Greek Cypriots, who fear it would act as a precedent for north Cyprus.
"Your election offers the opportunity to overcome the long-standing stalemate on the Cyprus issue," European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said, according to his office in Brussels.
"I would strongly encourage you to grasp this chance and without delay start negotiations under United Nations auspices with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community on a comprehensive settlement."
The U.S. also stressed this was a chance to resolve the island's 34-year division between the breakaway state in the north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south.
The U.S. believes "2008 offers a window of opportunity for significant progress," the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia said in a statement congratulating Christofias.
Christofias, the European Union's only communist-rooted president, comfortably won Sunday's runoff with 53.37 percent, compared with 46.63 percent for conservative former Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides.
On Monday morning, Christofias met with British High Commissioner Peter Millett. Britain, Cyprus' former colonial ruler, maintains two sovereign bases on the island and has long been involved in diplomatic efforts to resolve its division.
"We welcome the commitment and willingness of Mr. Christofias to work for a Cyprus solution and for its reunification," Millett said. "We assure him that he will have our unwavering support to achieve this goal."
The commissioner stressed that "neither the U.K. nor the international community want to impose a solution on Cyprus. It is incumbent on the two communities to work together under the U.N. auspices."
A meeting between Christofias and Talat would "contribute to improving the climate," Millet said, adding that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had invited Christofias to visit London "soon."
Cyprus was split in 1974 after a Turkish invasion sparked by a coup that attempted to unite the island with Greece. A solution has eluded generations of diplomats and politicians.
Talks were frozen after Greek Cypriots rejected a 2004 U.N. reunification plan that was accepted by Turkish Cypriots in separate referendums. Outgoing hardline President Tassos Papadopoulos was seen as instrumental in urging Greek Cypriots to vote against the plan.
Christofias has been clear that he wants to move quickly on reunification.
"We have a common vision ... to reunite our people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots," he said in his victory speech Sunday, as jubilant supporters waved Cypriot and Che Guevara flags.
"I extend a hand of friendship to the Turkish Cypriot people and their leadership," he said, thanking Talat for congratulating him and saying he looked forward to "substantial cooperation for the benefit of both communities."
Christofias' win makes strategically important Cyprus a rarity among its EU partners _ a country led by a president with firmly communist roots.
But both his campaign and analysts have pointed the 61-year-old Soviet-educated history professor is not a traditional communist.
Cypriots might need a "diplomatic campaign in Washington and European capitals, probably just initially, to reassure leadership circles ... that we're not talking about Fidel Castro or Kim Il Sung here, but a Euro-communist like one finds in almost every Western European country," said John Sitilides, chairman of the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center's Southeast Europe Project.
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Associated Press writer Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-05-07 00:31 GMT+08:00