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Turkish Cypriot leader says Cyprus division could be solved by end of year

Turkish Cypriot leader says Cyprus division could be solved by end of year

The division of Cyprus could be resolved by the end of the year, the Turkish Cypriot leader said Monday, while the island's newly elected president came under international pressure to honor his pledge to quickly restart talks.
President-elect Dimitris Christofias had campaigned on a pledge to act fast to restart long-stalled talks to reunify the island.
"I believe that it won't be a surprise if we solve the problem by the end of 2008," Mehmet Ali Talat told reporters at a news conference.
Decades of diplomatic efforts to heal the rift on the strategic island have failed. 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. The island's division is also a major source of tension between NATO allies Turkey and Greece.
Christofias faced mounting pressure almost immediately.
"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," EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told the new president.
He said Christofias' election "offers the opportunity to overcome the long-standing stalemate."
The U.N. Secretary General's Cyprus representative, Michael Moller, welcomed Christofias' "intention to move quickly to start talks," while the U.S. Embassy in Nicosia said "2008 offers a window of opportunity for significant progress."
Cyprus has been divided into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south since 1974, when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup attempting to unite the island with Greece.
Talks have been stalled since Greek Cypriots rejected a U.N. reunification plan in 2004. Turkish Cypriots approved the blueprint.
Christofias' election Sunday, after the ouster of hardline Tassos Papadopoulos in a surprise first round election result last week, has sparked renewed hope.
"We believe this decision will be the start of a new era," Talat said.
Christofias has pledged to meet with Talat, although a date or venue for that meeting has not been determined.
"Naturally, the U.N. will be involved as usual, and I believe that soon we will arrange a first exploratory meeting," the new president said.
Although no date has been set, Christofias said he would first go to Athens next week, and then to Brussels before returning home.
Christofias, a Soviet-educated 61-year-old history professor, heads the communist-rooted AKEL party and has long had friendly ties with the Turkish Cypriot left wing.
"I've known the Greek Cypriot leader for quite some time, and I'm more than happy," said Talat, who used to head a left-wing Turkish Cypriot party before becoming leader of the breakaway state in April 2005.
Christofias won comfortably on Sunday night with just over 53 percent of the vote, ahead of conservative former Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides with 46.6 percent.
Both had pledged to restart peace talks.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the vote "generated a renewed sense of hope _ among both communities on the island _ that progress towards a comprehensive settlement can be achieved during 2008."
Britain, Cyprus' former colonial ruler, maintains two sovereign bases on the island and has long been involved in diplomatic efforts to resolve its division.
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis congratulated Christofias and said the election "will provide a new impetus to Cyprus' long-running efforts to end the Turkish occupation," in a mutually acceptable framework.


Updated : 2021-06-24 09:22 GMT+08:00