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Cyprus' new president pledges to pursue peace talks with Turkish Cypriots

Cyprus' new president pledges to pursue peace talks with Turkish Cypriots

New Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias said Thursday that his government's first priority will be to negotiate a settlement to reunify the island, which was divided by war more than three decades ago.
Christofias, who heads the communist-rooted AKEL party, said new talks with the rival Turkish Cypriot community would also be aimed at demilitarizing Cyprus.
"It is my life's vision to reach a just and viable solution," Christofias said during a swearing-in ceremony in parliament.
Cyprus has been divided into a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south since 1974, when Turkey invaded after a coup attempting to unite the island with Greece.
Talks halted after Greek Cypriots rejected a United Nations reunification plan in a 2004 referendum. Turkish Cypriots backed the blueprint.
Within hours of his election, Christofias promised to swiftly restart stalled talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, who agreed to the meeting and said a reunification deal could be reached by the end of 2008.
No date has been set for the talks.
"I firmly believe the time has come for the problem to be solved ... and for the principles of international law to be restored," Christofias said, outlining policies for his five-year term.
"I address our Turkish Cypriot compatriots to assure them ... that I will work so they can enjoy all the rights as equal citizens of a united federal Republic of Cyprus."
Christofias, 61, won after two rounds of voting on Feb. 24 and was sworn in at a special session of parliament.
EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou was named foreign minister in the new 11-member Cabinet. Kyprianou, the first commissioner appointed by Cyprus since it joined the European Union in 2004, resigned the Brussels post Thursday.
Charilaos Stavrakis, chairman of state-owned Electricity Authority, will take over at the Finance Ministry. Five Cabinet posts went to members of centrist and Socialist parties that provided vital campaign support.
The Soviet-educated Christofias also sought to dispel concern over the island's economy, and pledged to maintain centrist policies.
"Our economic program ... is based on a combination of entrepreneurship and social cohesion," he told parliament. "Our policies will seek to gradually eradicate poverty and improve the quality of life."
Christofias is Cyprus' sixth president since independence from British colonial rule in 1960.


Updated : 2021-06-23 11:29 GMT+08:00