Talat sees ‘window of opportunity’ for talks

NICOSIA (Reuters) Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat said yesterday the election of a new Cypriot president offered a last chance for reunification and he believed a «solution» could be found by the end of 2008. President Dimitris Christofias has pledged to relaunch efforts to reunite the ethnically divided Mediterranean island, which is a hurdle to Turkey’s hopes of joining the European Union. «A new phase of negotiations may start by about April,» Talat told Reuters in an interview. «We have every reason to expect a solution by the end of the year.» A Communist Party leader who says he will not tamper with the island’s market economy, Christofias rode a wave of discontent with his predecessor’s hardline policies toward Turkish Cypriots to win Sunday’s runoffs. Talat said his victory offered hope after five wasted years during which the two sides grew further apart. A UN team was due on Cyprus by April to assess how willing the two sides were to negotiate. «Time is very limited,» Talat said. «In the next couple of years, we must use this window of opportunity because it may be the last one. I really believe that.» Talat said a solution hinged on the willingness of Greek Cypriots to share power with Turkish Cypriots on an equal basis. «We must show our real intentions,» he said. «For us, political equality is a top priority.» He said the 2004 UN plan, which Turkish Cypriots approved but Greek Cypriots rejected in a referendum, was the last proposal on the table and things will have to start from there. Christofias has said that plan is history.