Turkey key to north Cyprus after polls

Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said yesterday that he would start meeting with party leaders today in a bid to form a government for his breakaway state, after elections on Sunday resulted in an even split between pro- and anti-Denktash parties. Denktash said that new elections will be held in 60 days if no party can form a government. But the official Turkish news agency, Anatolia, quoted unnamed Turkish diplomatic sources as saying, «The Turkish-Cypriot people have thrown the ball into Turkey’s court for a solution of the Cyprus problem.» Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots were working on the way forward. «We will bring out concrete measures next week. Right now we are in preparations for a compromise (with the Greek Cypriots),» Anatolia quoted him as saying. Speaking to his party’s parliamentary group yesterday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointed out that the split vote (with 25 seats on either side) showed that the Turkish Cypriots wanted a solution to the Cyprus problem that will allow them to join the EU along with the rest of Cyprus on May 1, but also that they were not ready to jettison Denktash and all he stood for. «The clear message from elections is the need to protect what has been achieved while at the same time moving toward the targets of solving the Cyprus problem and joining the EU,» he said. «In Cyprus, politics are forced to give new birth, and new politicians must come forward,» Erdogan said. When asked, he said he was not implying that Denktash should resign. The top vote-getter, Mehmet Ali Talat, had said before the elections that he would demand Denktash’s replacement as the Turkish-Cypriot negotiator. The US State Department coordinator for Cyprus, Thomas Weston, left yesterday on a six-day trip to Athens, Nicosia and Ankara. A University of Oslo team that monitored the election said yesterday that citizenships may have been granted to boost pro-government forces, The Associated Press reported. «The increase of the number of eligible voters… created suspicion of ‘voter production’ in order to increase support of government parties,» the team said.