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Greek Cypriot poll spells hope for reunification

Latest update : 2008-02-25

Thirty-four years after the island's partition, Turkish Cypriot president Mehmet Ali Talat urged his newly elected Greek counterpart to hold fresh reunification talks. FRANCE 24's Jasper Mortimer reports from Nicosia, Cyprus.

NICOSIA - Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat urged newly elected Greek Cypriot President Demetris Christofias to engage "as soon as possible" in fresh peace talks aimed at reuniting their divided Mediterranean island.

"I genuinely congratulate Mr Christofias and I call on him to cooperate in the process of negotiations which should start as soon as possible," Talat told a televised news conference in the divided Cypriot capital of Nicosia.

"I want to reiterate that we on the Turkish Cypriot side are ready for a resumption of talks," he added.

Communist party leader Christofias won Sunday's presidential election in the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot south of Cyprus and said he wanted to meet Talat, leader of the breakaway north, to revive the stalled reunification drive.

Cyprus's partition along ethnic lines is an obstacle to Turkey's bid to join the European Union and a source of contention between NATO allies Turkey and Greece.

"We are hoping for the start of a new era in Cyprus," Talat said, adding that Turkish Cypriots wanted a settlement that respected the political equality of both ethnic communities.

Cyprus has been partitioned since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north to protect its ethnic kin following a Greek Cypriot coup backed by the military junta then ruling Greece.

Reunification efforts broke down in 2004 when Greek Cypriots, taking their cue from then-president Tassos Papadopoulos, rejected a U.N. peace plan that was supported by Talat and Turkish Cypriot voters.

Shortly after, the Greek Cypriots joined the EU as the Republic of Cyprus, leaving the Turkish Cypriots out in the cold. Only Ankara recognises Talat's self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

"Rejecting a solution again would cause irreparable destruction," Talat said.

Date created : 2008-02-25