NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – A hardliner that won the Turkish Cypriot election said Sunday that it is ready to resume idle talks aimed at ending the 46-year-old ethnic division of Cyprus as long as rival Greek Cypriots deal with Turkey’s regional power.
Ersin Tatar, who fully supports the harmonization of Turkish Cypriot policy with that of Turkey’s regional patron, said any peace agreement must take into account the “realities” in and around the war-torn island of the Eastern Mediterranean. Tatar spoke after defeating left-back Mustafa Akindzhi in a runoff.
“It will not be difficult to reach an agreement at the negotiating table if our Greek and Cypriot friends properly analyze the strategic, economic and social balances in our region,”
“They need to know that if these unyielding attitudes continue, we will not give up our rights.”
Tatar also called on the European Union and the United Nations to be “fair” and to make changes in the way the talks are supported, as their previous approach failed.
“You will no longer ignore the rights of Turkish Cypriots,” Tatar said.
Cyprus was divided in 1974, when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of an alliance with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state to the north, which is economically and militarily dependent on Ankara. The internationally recognized government of the island is based in Greek Cypriots in the south and is part of the 27-member European Union.
Tatar, a 60-year-old offshoot of Turkish Cypriot political leaders, defeated Akindzhi in a contested run-off that was obsessed with accusations of “unprecedented” interference by Turkey in an attempt to garner votes for the contender.
Cypriot-Turkish broadcaster BRT says that with 100% of the votes counted, Tatar has secured 51.74% of the vote, compared to 48.26% for Akindzhi.
Akindzhi, 72, a Turkish Cypriot champion who opposes Turkey’s total dominance in their affairs and supports a federal deal with Greek Cypriots, conceded defeat to Tatar in a speech to supporters at his campaign headquarters, congratulating his opponent on the victory.
“We went through a pre-election contest that was not normal … These results mark the end of my 45-year political career,” Akinji said. “I wish good luck to our people.”
Tatar criticized those he said “accused the country of turning elections into a political tool” and expressed pride that “Turkey is always by our side”.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went to his official Twitter account to congratulate Tatar on his election victory.
“Turkey will continue to make all necessary efforts to protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots,” Erdogan said.
Nearly five decades of UN-facilitated attempts to achieve unification based on a federal framework have failed.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to convene soon to bring together the two countries and Cyprus’s “guarantors” – Greece, Turkey and Britain – to expand the chances of resuming talks.
The resumption of negotiations could help ease rising tensions in waters off Greece and Cyprus over maritime borders and energy exploration rights after Turkey redeployed a research ship near the Greek island of Kastelorizo.
Turkey insists it has the full legal right to look for hydrocarbons in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights. The Greek and Cypriot governments accuse Turkey of violating international law. The dispute has raised fears of a military conflict between Greece and Turkey, which are members of NATO but strong regional rivals.
Tatar told the Associated Press in an interview last month that tensions would ease if Greek Cypriots agreed to share Cyprus’ territorial waters and drilling rights with Turkish Cypriots before formal peace talks resume.
He also shared the Turkish government’s view that the federation may not be the most viable option and that alternatives should be sought, such as a two-state agreement.
Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Ankara would not participate in peace talks if Greek Cypriots did not agree to share decision-making powers with minority Turkish Cypriot Turks at all levels of the planned federal government. . He said the alternative would be to start negotiations on a deal with the two countries.
Analyst Tumai Tugyan said he expects peace talks to become significantly more complicated with the Tatars now in charge.
But she said the Turkish Cypriot side has committed to a federal model in previous rounds of talks and that it will be difficult to move that basis to something else.
Tugyan said what would change significantly was Turkish Cypriot relations with Turkey, whose “interference” in their affairs “will become harsher than ever.”