NEWS

Turkish Cypriots in deadlock

Turkish-Cypriot political parties were deadlocked yesterday after two opposing groups split the 50 seats in their legislative body equally. Sunday’s poll in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus was seen as a referendum on a UN-proposed solution to the island’s division and on the veteran Turkish-Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash. The deadlock allowed both sides to claim victory but it also raised the possibility of new elections within 60 days if neither can form a government. Mehmet Ali Talat’s pro-EU opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP) won 35.18 percent of the vote and 19 seats, while its partner, the Peace and Democracy Movement (BDH), got 13.14 percent and six seats. Their opponents, the National Unity Party (UBP) and the Democrat Party (DP), won 18 and seven seats respectively, 32.93 percent and 12.93 percent of the vote. Denktash said that if no party leader can form a government within two months, new elections will be called. Only Turkey recognizes his breakaway state in the part of the island it has occupied since 1974. Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, speaking after a meeting with his British counterpart Tony Blair in London, urged Turkey to help solve the Cyprus problem before the island joins the EU. «This is the moment for it to do something, before May 1, 2004, for us to overcome this problem, which has plagued the divided island for more than 30 years,» he said. Regarding Sunday’s election, he said: «It shows that the residents of the occupied territory want a solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of the Annan Plan. They do not accept the policy that has been followed so far. I believe this is a positive development but there must be more.» UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he would not make another push to solve the Cyprus problem until he saw the necessary political will on the island. «His plan for a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem remains on the table but (he) does not propose to take a new initiative without solid reason to believe that the political will necessary for a successful outcome exists,» Annan spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York. «The secretary-general hopes that the Turkish-Cypriot side and indeed all parties will soon be in a position to make the necessary commitment so that a reunited Cyprus may accede to the European Union,» he said. The EU had hoped that an opposition victory in Sunday’s vote would revive peace talks and the European Commission yesterday called for the rapid resumption of talks. «Certainly one of the main keys of the whole issue lies in Ankara,» said Jean-Christophe Filori, spokesman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen. The polls showed that «a majority of people… expressed their will to put an end to the status quo,» he said. «We urge the authorities of northern Cyprus to draw their conclusions from this poll and as soon as possible to come back to the negotiating table… There is a window of opportunity before May 1, and we consider that it is still possible for a reunited Cyprus to join the EU on May 1,» he said. «We congratulate our Turkish-Cypriot compatriots who with this vote gave a message of disapproval of the tactics of the Turkish side, particularly Mr Denktash,» Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos said. In Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told reporters: «The public’s message is very clear. The people want a solution and also pay heed to Denktash’s opinions.»