NEWS

Brussels hails Turk Cypriots’ new Cabinet

BRUSSELS/NICOSIA (Combined reports) – The European Commission yesterday welcomed the formation of a new coalition government in breakaway northern Cyprus headed by a supporter of reunification before the island joins the EU in May. «We consider that this is a positive element,» said Jean-Christophe Filori, spokesman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen, who wants Cyprus to join the EU on May 1 as a united island. «The elected representative of the Turkish community in northern Cyprus was able to put up a team… with the clear target of resuming talks on the reunification of the island on the basis of the Annan plan,» Filori said, referring to a peace plan drafted by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. «We consider the first signals we’ve heard as encouraging,» he added. However, the new Cabinet ran into a procedural snag yesterday, causing fresh jitters over prospects for reunification talks. But the new prime minister of the Turkish-Cypriot enclave played down the hitch, saying it would not endanger his pro-reunification government. A spokesman for the Democrat Party (DP), which agreed this week to join a two-party coalition pledging to resume the peace process with the Greek Cypriots, said three of its ministers named on Tuesday had not fulfilled residence requirements. «There is a constitutional problem,» he told Reuters. «Ministers, in order to be chosen, must live in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus for a minimum of three years prior to being selected.» But Mehmet Ali Talat, confirmed as prime minister on Tuesday when Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash approved the current lineup, said the coalition government itself was not at risk. «The worst-case scenario is that they will have to change the ministers,» he told Reuters. «The government has been formed and ratified, and therefore it is not in danger.» Denktash on Tuesday approved the formation of the new coalition headed by Talat, head of the Republican Turkish Party (CTP) along with his son’s DP. The move was expected to mark the start of renewed efforts to revive peace talks between Cyprus’s Turkish and Greek communities. The CTP is strongly in favor of resuming peace talks with Greek-Cypriot officials on the basis of the UN plan. The DP was previously against the UN plan but seems to have eased its stance under pressure from Turkey. (AFP, Reuters)