Home News Cyprus talks resume under shadow of hardline poll win

Cyprus talks resume under shadow of hardline poll win

Published on 22/04/2009

Nicosia -- Rival Cypriot leaders resumed UN-brokered peace talks on Tuesday after hardline nationalists won parliamentary elections in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north raising fears for the negotiations.

The hardliners’ victory does not affect the immediate position of Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, who will continue to lead the talks with his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, which they launched last September.

But the defeat for Talat’s party has triggered concerns that he will no longer have the authority to make the necessary concessions for peace.

The two leaders met for a 26th time on Tuesday and the election result in the north was discussed between them in private.

"I talked with Mr Talat and I don’t think anyone expects him to be happy about it," Christofias told reporters. "We spoke freely in private and our discussions will remain that way."

The right-wing National Unity Party (UBP) led by former premier Dervis Eroglu secured 26 of the 50 seats in the parliament of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in Sunday’s election.

Pundits said the defeat for Talat’s backers, the Republican Turkish Party (CTP), was the result of frustration among Turkish Cypriots with their continuing isolation and mounting pessimism about the peace talks.

Talat has been negotiating for a bi-zonal federation, but Eroglu’s UBP has for years demanded a two-state solution — something which is vehemently rejected by the Greek Cypriots.

On Monday evening, the election winner restated his party’s position. "There are two peoples, two states and two democracies on the island of Cyprus. We support any settlement… within this framework," Eroglu said.

But on Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the nationalist leader against any attempt to disrupt the talks.

"It would be very wrong for the new government to end the negotiations or to continue the negotiations on a basis different than the one that has been followed so far," Erdogan said.

"The process must continue exactly as before … We will never support a move that would weaken the hand" of the Turkish Cypriot leader, he added.

UN chief of mission Taye-Brook Zerihoun played down the election result saying it "would not really" have any impact on the course of negotiations as Talat would continue to lead them.

Nevertheless, Greek Cypriot politicians believe the talks, which resume on May 5, are now sailing in choppy waters.

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said things would now become "more difficult".

Both the right-wing opposition DISY party and the main governing communist party AKEL described the poll outcome as a "negative development".

Talat, who does not face re-election as TRNC president until April next year, voiced hope that his efforts to agree a deal before those polls would not be harmed.

"It is a known fact that the Turkish Cypriot people are in favour of a settlement … I think there will be no problem," he told BRTK television on Monday.

He said the nationalists "took advantage of the Turkish Cypriot people’s disappointment with the failure of the European Union and the international community to fulfil their pledges."

The European Union had promised economic gestures to the Turkish Cypriots after they overwhelmingly backed a UN reunification plan in 2004 that was consigned to the dustbin of history after being rejected by Greek Cypriots.

The failure of the UN plan meant a divided Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, leaving the Turkish Cypriots in the cold despite pledges by the European bloc to end their isolation.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern third in response to an Athens-engineered Greek Cypriot coup to unite it with Greece.

Charlie Charalambous/AFP/Expatica