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Turkish Cypriot Leader Sees Reunification Deal This Year

Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu says the island will be united again
Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu says the island will be united again

Although he almost single-handedly blocked talks trying to reunify Cyprus 40 years after it was divided by a Turkish invasion, Turkish-Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu now says he’s confident renewed talks will lead to a deal this year.

Eroglu, a hardliner known for not bending to compromise, told reporters after meeting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that negotiations with Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on reunifying Cyprus, which resumed in February after a 20-month stalemate, could produce results.

Cyprus was split into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north in 1974 when Turkey invaded after the Athens military junta led a coup by Cypriot supporters of union with Greece.

Turkish Cypriots declared an independent state in 1983, but only Turkey recognizes it and keeps 35,000 troops there. Cyprus joined the European Union in 2003, but the Turkish side has been isolated.

A resolution has eluded an array of negotiators for decades. One of Anastasiades’ coalition members left the government after it complained he had already made critical concessions even before the talks began.

Talks resumed in February after he and Eroglu agreed on a document outlining key provisions of an envisioned federation although Anastasides’ critics said he has ceded too much power to the Turkish Cypriot side.

“Our target remains … the settlement of the Cyprus problem in the shortest possible time,” Eroglu said. “We have the support of the Secretary-General in this regard. He has been encouraging the both sides,” Eroglu said, the Associated Press reported.

“We’ll try to bridge our differences and find a comprehensive settlement in the shortest possible time,” Eroglu said. “We said a settlement is possible within this year. We can finalize a settlement, and take it to … separate simultaneous referenda, in 2014.”

Secretary-General Ban encouraged Eroglu, together with Anastasiades, “to maintain the current momentum in the talks” and reaffirmed the U.N. commitment to assist the two sides to reach a comprehensive settlement, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Outgoing U.N. envoy Alexander Downer told a farewell news conference on March 27 that Cyprus’ bailout and economic problems could bolster the chances of a peace accord.

He said the country’s shrunken economy and high unemployment could get people to focus on the benefits an agreement would bring, such as a potential increase in foreign investment and a tourism influx.

There’s “positive momentum” in the talks, Downer said, and a “deal can be done.”

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