Turkey to push for deal on Cyprus as hardliner wins election
Published 19/04/2010 | 05:00
Turkey said last night it wanted to tackle the problem of Cyprus's ethnic division within eight months after nationalist Dervis Eroglu won the presidency in northern Cyprus, which relies on Ankara for its existence.
Mr Eroglu, a staunch backer of Turkish Cypriot independence, swept to victory in a vote which diplomats and analysts said could slow efforts to reunify the Mediterranean island and set back Turkey's hopes of joining the European Union.
Unofficial final results showed Eroglu winning 50.38pc of the vote with incumbent leader Mehmet Ali Talat garnering 42.85pc of the vote.
Turkey, the only country to recognise northern Cyprus as a state, exerts enormous influence on the Turkish Cypriots -- it supports their economy with an estimated $700m (€500m) annually and maintains 30,000 troops there.
Speaking after results showed Mr Eroglu with a comfortable lead, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara wanted a solution to the Cyprus issue -- the main obstacle to his country's hopes of joining the EU -- by the end of 2010.
"Turkish Cypriots must continue the talks, which is something Eroglu also believes in. It is our aim to find a solution by the end of the year," Mr Erdogan, who has shown more interest in a Cyprus settlement than his predecessors, told local media.
Turkey had supported Mr Talat, who led talks over the last year with Greek Cypriots to reunite the island as a sovereign state with autonomy for the two zones but with an effective central administration.
Mr Eroglu is seeking broad autonomy for Turkish Cypriots in reunification talks with Greek Cypriots, a position the Greek Cypriots object to.
Greek Cypriots represent Cyprus in the European Union and have said they will block Turkey's entry until the island is reunited.