Monday

20th May 2019

Nationalist victory threatens Cyprus peace process

  • Mr Talat (l), the pro-peace-process leader who has been defeated, talks with EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso (Photo: CE | Brussels - EC/Berlaymont)

A right-wing nationalist appears to have won the presidential election in northern Cyprus, potentially threatening hopes for reunification of the divided island.

Dervis Eroglu, the 72-year-old leader of the conservative National Unity Party, has won 50.38 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results posted on the website of the Turkish Cypriot High Electoral Board, beating left-wing incumbent Mehmet Ali Talat of the social-democratic Republican Turkish Party with 42.85 percent.

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If the results are confirmed by the country's electoral commission, Mr Ergolu, currently the prime minister of Turkish-controlled Cyprus, which is recognised as a country by Turkey only, would avoid a run-off vote.

While Mr Talat has been a strong supporter of the renewed peace process and ultimately of the reunification of Cyprus, Mr Eroglu wants to see separate Greek and Turkish Cypriot states.

"No-one must think that I will walk away from the negotiating table. The talks process will continue," he told NTV, a Turkish broadcaster, however. "I will work with goodwill for a solution that takes my community's rights into account."

Analysts say his victory is due to frustration with the peace process among northern Cypriots.

Mr Talat has repeatedly met with his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Demetris Christofias, of the far-left Akel party since talks restarted in 2008. But the deadlock remains despite their ideological proximity.

Northerners are especially annoyed by Greek Cyprus' blockade of its access to EU markets.

During campaigning Mr Eroglu talked of "equal, sovereign peoples" in a reference to two separate states. He also rejects a solution that would permit Greek Cypriots to reclaim their property in the north.

The island has been divided since Turkey's invasion in 1974 in response to a Greek-inspired coup in Nicosia aimed at uniting the island with Greece.

Reunification talks resumed in September 2008 with strong support from Ankara, which faces problems with its EU entry bid because of the situation.

In 2006 the EU blocked eight negotiating areas from further discussion due to Turkey's failure to meet commitments regarding Cyprus, notably its refusal to allow Cypriot ships and planes into Turkish territory.

For its part, Turkey maintains that Europe has not fulfilled its own promises regarding expanded links with Northern Cyprus, after Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of the UN peace plan for re-unification of the island in 2004, just before Cyprus joined the EU.

Greek Cypriots living on the southern part of the island voted down the proposal, which resulted in the island entering the union in its divided form.

The EU considers the whole of the island to be part of the bloc. However, in the northern part of the island, EU legislation is suspended.

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