Turkish-Cypriot leader resigns after dispute

NICOSIA (AFP) – The so-called prime minister of the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus resigned yesterday, dissolving his two-party coalition administration and sparking a political crisis. Ferdi Sabit Soyer’s resignation followed a decision on Friday by his center-left Republican Turkish Party to part ways with its coalition partner, the center-right Democrat Party, because of disputes largely over the fate of the divided island. The two parties have been at odds over efforts for the reunification of the eastern Mediterranean island, which has been divided since a 1974 Turkish invasion of the north. The Democrat Party led by Serdar Denktash, the son of former Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, follows a more nationalist line, refusing to make concessions to the internationally recognized Cyprus government. «There were problems in the coalition. We tried to solve them, but failed,» Soyer told reporters after submitting his resignation to Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. Soyer’s coalition came to power in May 2005. Talat is widely expected to nominate Soyer again as prime minister-designate as the Republican Party holds half of the 50 seats in the parliament that Turkish-Cypriot authorities have established in the island’s Turkish-occupied north. Soyer is likely to work toward a partnership with a new party in the making by four independent lawmakers, three of whom resigned from the Democrat Party and one from the main opposition center-right National Unity Party last week. The political crisis comes at a time when Turkey, the only country to recognize the Turkish-occupied statelet in the north of Cyprus, is under pressure to resolve a trade dispute over Cyprus or risk jeopardizing membership talks with the European Union. Brussels is demanding Ankara open its air and sea ports to EU member Cyprus but Ankara insists that Greek Cypriots would remain barred unless international restrictions imposed on the Turkish-occupied north are simultaneously lifted. Turkey also refuses to recognize the Republic of Cyprus until a viable settlement is reached on the island. The Greek-Cypriot-led government of the Republic of Cyprus has international recognition and joined the European Union in May 2004. In June, Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos and Talat agreed to begin a process under which technical committees would seek to resolve day-to-day community issues, while at the same time tackling more delicate core questions. But it is still unclear whether or when talks for a comprehensive settlement will start.