‘Will’ for Cyprus deal

Ankara is more determined than ever to end the Cyprus conflict, a senior minister told Turkish television yesterday. The declaration comes as politicians in the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot enclave in the island’s Turkish-occupied north again failed to break the deadlock resulting from a close vote on December 14, which translated into a legislature equally divided between nationalists and the opposition. «We will display an unprecedentedly strong political will… for the resolution of the Cyprus issue,» Economy Minister Ali Babacan said in a TV appearance yesterday. He added that there exists an «historic opportunity» to end the 29-year-old partition of the island and the even longer conflict between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, while underlining that the continuation of the partition would not help anyone. The current Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed a desire to solve the Cyprus issue more often than any of its predecessors. Pressure from the European Union, which has linked progress on the Cyprus issue to Turkey’s own chances of joining the EU, has played an important part. However, Erdogan has sent mixed signals over his relationship with Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, whom he has often criticized but whose line he appeared to support during the recent election in northern Cyprus. Denktash’s son Serdar, head of the Democratic Party, one of the two nationalist formations that contested the election, said yesterday he would be willing to serve under Mehmet Ali Talat, leader of the opposition Republican Turkish Party, in a coalition government. This is a reversal of his previous position. Talat – whose talks with Dervis Eroglu, the current prime minister and leader of the National Union party, appeared on the verge of collapse – accused both father and son Denktash on Saturday of deliberately stalling to prevent any solution to the partition ahead of Cyprus’s EU accession next May 1. Talat said Serdar Denktash’s plan to meet with leaders of the Greek-Cypriot parties, beginning tomorrow, and with the government coalition partners, the communist AKEL and liberal DIKO, was mere showboating. Also on Saturday, Cyprus’s foreign minister, George Iakovou, called on Turkey to stop using «doublespeak» on the Cyprus issue and help reach a solution before May 1.