Talat resigns in northern Cyprus

NICOSIA (AP) – The shaky coalition ruling Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus collapsed yesterday after months of confusion following a referendum that failed to reunite the island. Mehmet Ali Talat, who served for nine months as head of the Turkish-Cypriot administration, submitted his resignation to Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. Talat, who is extremely popular for his efforts to reunite the island, is expected to keep his position until a new administration is formed. «Today, we have relayed our resignation letter,» Talat told a news conference. Denktash will meet party leaders in the coming days to discuss the possibility of forming a new administration. If these talks fail, early elections will be called. Commenting on the resignation, Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said Nicosia is «watching developments among the Turkish Cypriots very carefully.» Chrysostomides said his government hoped «a trustworthy Turkish-Cypriot leadership» would emerge with which it could resume negotiations on uniting the island. Nicosia saw Talat’s administration as too subservient to Turkey during the reunification talks. In the April 24 referendum, Talat led Turkish Cypriots in voting heavily for the reunification plan presented by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. But his coalition partner, Serdar Denktash, the son of Rauf, opposed the plan. Greek Cypriots voted overwhelmingly against the UN plan. In late April, several Turkish-Cypriot lawmakers resigned from the two parties in the coalition, reducing it to a minority government. Serdar Denktash said yesterday that if efforts to form a new administration fail, then elections could be held in early 2005.