Coalition deal sought after Turk Cypriots’ split vote

NICOSIA – Turkish-Cypriot politicians wrestled yesterday with the problem of forming a government after elections seen as crucial for ending the island’s decades-long division ended in a dead heat. Sunday’s parliamentary poll was effectively a referendum on veteran leader Rauf Denktash’s stance against a UN plan to reunify Cyprus, with opposition parties vowing to seek a swift deal with the Greek Cypriots. The hung result, giving the pro-Denktash and anti-Denktash camps 25 seats each, leaves the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot mini-state in political deadlock and peace prospects in limbo. It could also hamper the ambitions of Turkey, the only country to recognize the enclave, to join the European Union. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said the Ankara government was working with the enclave to map the way ahead and end nearly three decades of division along ethnic lines. «We will bring out concrete measures next week. Right now we are in preparations for a compromise (with the Greek Cypriots),» the Anatolia news agency quoted him as saying on a trip to Japan. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the poll result showed that Turkish Cypriots wanted a settlement, but not at any cost. «They want to join the European Union, but while preserving their existing rights,» he told Parliament. Turkish Cypriots fear these rights will be eroded in a reunited Cyprus, where Greek Cypriots are far more numerous. Denktash said he would hold individual meetings with the leaders of the four elected parties from today to discuss who might be capable of forming a new coalition. He said on Monday that fresh polls would have to be called in two months if no stable government could be formed. His son Serdar, leader of the third-placed Democrat Party that was junior partner in the outgoing government, said he would back either political camp prepared to compromise. «With this 50-50 break no one can go and sign the (UN) Annan Plan as it is, and at the same time no one can reject the Annan Plan, so we have to compromise,» he told Reuters. But both he and Mustafa Akinci, the leader of the other small elected party that could hold the key to a coalition deal, said much depended on Turkey. «We want to see the attitude of Ankara. Do they really mean business by May 2004 or are they in line with Denktash?» Akinci, whose BDH party holds six seats, told Reuters. Diplomats expect Turkey to accept a resumption of talks on the basis of the UN peace plan, but seek more guarantees for the Turkish Cypriots. US says vote advances ’cause of peace’ WASHINGTON (AFP) – The result of Sunday’s vote in the self-declared Turkish republic in northern Cyprus was a sign that residents there support the peaceful reunification of the divided island, the United States said Monday. «Turkish Cypriots expressed their desire for a comprehensive Cyprus settlement that will enable them to join the EU next May 1 alongside Greek Cypriots,» State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. «We hope a new administration will be in place as soon as possible that will carry out the will of the majority of Turkish Cypriots. This vote advances the cause of peace on Cyprus. It is a vote for hope over fear.» The State Department dispatched Ambassador Tom Weston to the region Monday. His is due to visit Athens, Nicosia and Ankara. Weston’s mission is to help «press the United States’ view of the way ahead.»