- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009

NICOSIA, Cyprus | Talks to unite this divided island are under threat following the recent victory in a Turkish-Cypriot parliamentary election of a hard-line party that wants a two-state solution.

Both sides - the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots - have tried to minimize the impact of the vote.

Turkey, the only country that recognizes the self-styled Turkish-Cypriot entity, said the talks, which have so far been unproductive, should continue in their present framework. A brief session was held after Sundays elections.

In the election, the right-wing National Unity Party (UBP) of Dervis Eroglu was swept to victory with 44 percent of the vote, giving it a majority in the 50-seat Turkish-Cypriot parliament. The governing Turkish Republican Party (CTP), the main ally of Turkish-Cypriot President Mehmet Ali Talat, got 29 percent of the vote.

Mr. Eroglu quickly reassured the international community that reunification talks would continue, and that his party would support Mr. Talat’s role as chief negotiator.

Mr. Talat and Greek-Cypriot President Demetris Christofias have been holding peace talks since September, but there has been little tangible sign of progress so far to end the eastern Mediterranean island’s 35-year partition. Mr. Talat voiced hope the talks would not be harmed, even though the two leaders have differing visions of a settlement.

Mr. Talat has been negotiating for a bi-zonal federation, but Mr. Eroglu’s UBP has for years favored a two-state solution - which is vehemently rejected by the Greek Cypriots.

“It is a known fact that the Turkish-Cypriot people are in favor of a settlement. I think there will be no problem,” Mr. Talat told BRTK television on Monday, according to Agence France-Presse.

Mr. Eroglu said he would appoint a delegate to attend the negotiations.

The vote was a considerable blow to Mr. Christofias, who for the past year has been promising unification of the ethnic communities.

Many Greek-Cypriot politicians described the vote as “a negative development,” which will likely disrupt the unification talks.

The United Nations, the United States and a number of other countries have been urging unification of the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is backed by Turkey.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in response to an Athens-engineered Greek-Cypriot coup to unite it with Greece. Over the last 35 years all talks to bridge the gap between the communities have failed.

In 2004, the Greek-Cypriot side in a referendum rejected a U.N. proposal for a federal solution that was accepted by the Turkish Cypriots. The Greek Cypriots are seeking international pressure on Turkey to accept a solution on their terms, threatening to veto Turkeys accession to the European Union, of which Cyprus is a member - without the Turkish Cypriots.

Turkey has at least 30,000 troops on the island and refuses to endorse the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus until a settlement is reached.

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