Mustafa Ak­inci elected leader of Turk­ish Cypri­ots

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS

Mustafa Ak­inci, a vet­eran politi­cian with a strong track record of reach­ing out to ri­val Greek Cypri­ots, was elected Sun­day as leader of the break­away Turk­ish Cypri­ots in eth­ni­cally di­vided Cyprus, pledg­ing to fo­cus his en­ergy on break­ing decades of stale­mate and achiev­ing an ac­cord re­uni­fy­ing the small is­land na­tion.

Ak­inci hand­ily de­feated hard­line in­cum­bent Dervis Eroglu with 60.5 per­cent of the vote, fi­nal of­fi­cial re­sults showed. The turnout was just over 64 per­cent of about 177,000 reg­is­tered vot­ers.

Ak­inci is seen as a mod­er­ate who can pro­pel for­ward stalled re­uni­fi­ca­tion talks that are ex­pected to re­sume next month. Ak­inci rode a wave of dis­con­tent with five years of rule by Eroglu, who failed to rally right-wing sup­port­ers.

“We achieved change and my pol­icy will be fo­cused on reach­ing a peace set­tle­ment,” Ak­inci told thou­sands of ex­u­ber­ant sup­port­ers at a victory rally. “This coun­try can­not tol­er­ate any more wasted time.”

Ak­inci said that he had al­ready spo­ken to Greek Cypriot Pres­i­dent Ni­cos Anas­tasi­ades and both men agreed to meet soon.

U.N. en­voy Espen Barth Eide con­grat­u­lated Ak­inci on his win and “wel­comed his com­mit­ment to re­sum­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions as soon as pos­si­ble,” the U.N. said in a state­ment. Eide will re­turn to the is­land early next month to pre­pare for the re­sump­tion of talks that Anas­tasi­ades put on hold fol­low­ing a clash over rights to the is­land’s off­shore nat­u­ral gas re­serves.

Anas­tasi­ades tweeted late Sun- day that Ak­inci’s elec­tion win is “a hope­ful devel­op­ment for our com­mon home­land,” adding that he looks for­ward to meet­ing him.

Cyprus was di­vided in 1974 when Turkey in­vaded af­ter a coup by sup­port­ers of union with Greece. Only Turkey rec­og­nizes a Turk­ish Cypriot dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence and main­tains more than 30,000 troops in the north. Cyprus is a Euro­pean Union mem­ber, but only the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized south en­joys benefits.

With his win, Ak­inci, 67, capped a re­mark­able come­back af­ter spend­ing years in the po­lit­i­cal wilder­ness.

He built his po­lit­i­cal rep­u­ta­tion dur­ing a 14-year stint as mayor of the Turk­ish Cypriot half of the cap­i­tal Ni­cosia from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. Dur­ing that time, he col­lab­o­rated with his Greek Cypriot coun­ter­part on an ar­chi­tec­tural plan for a fu­ture re­uni­fied cap­i­tal that earned in­ter­na­tional ac­co­lades.

Since that time, he has held sev­eral gov­ern­ment posts, led and helped found left-wing po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

Eroglu’s bla­tant string-pulling cou­pled with the big po­lit­i­cal par­ties’ fail­ure to rally sup­port­ers amid in­fight­ing had soured many vot­ers who opted for a can­di­date they saw as un­tainted by scan­dal, Kay­mak said.

Many jaded Turk­ish Cypri­ots re­main skep­ti­cal whether a peace deal is any­where near fol­low­ing decades of false hopes. But Ak­inci’s elec­tion does bode well for the U.N.-bro­kered peace talks.

He sup­ports the is­land’s re­uni­fi­ca­tion as a fed­er­a­tion, un­like Eroglu’s unyield­ing pur­suit for a sep­a­rate Turk­ish Cypriot state merg­ing with Greek Cypri­ots in a looser part­ner­ship. Sep­a­rate Turk­ish Cypriot state­hood ran­kles with the vast ma­jor­ity of Greek Cypri­ots who see that as le­git­imiz­ing an armed land-grab.

Ak­inci is also will­ing to dis­cuss prac­ti­cal steps on build­ing con­fi­dence be­tween the two sides that would run par­al­lel to ne­go­ti­a­tions.

A key step is open­ing up Varosha, a Greek Cypriot sub­urb of the eastern coastal town of Fa­m­a­gusta that had mor­phed into a vir­tual ghost town af­ter be­ing fenced off and kept in the Turk­ish army’s con­trol since the 1974 war.

Varosha would open up un­der U.N. con­trol in ex­change for the open­ing up of Fa­m­a­gusta port to in­ter­na­tional traf­fic and al­low­ing di­rect flights into the north’s main air­port.

AP

Turk­ish Cypriot newly elected leader Mustafa Ak­inci with his wife Mi­ral wave to his sup­port­ers af­ter he won the lead­er­ship elec­tion in Ni­cosia in the Turk­ish Cypriot break­away north part of the di­vided is­land of Cyprus on Sun­day, April 26.

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