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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Talat: whoever wins election has one last chance to reunite Cyprus ]

Talat: whoever wins election has one last chance to reunite Cyprus


THE VICTOR in the presidential election on February 17 is likely to be the last to lead negotiations for a Cyprus settlement based on a federal model, Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat said this week.

“This is the last opportunity,” he told the Sunday Mail in an exclusive interview at his north Nicosia ‘palace’ on Thursday.

Predicting a restart of negotiations on a new UN-sponsored peace plan in the wake of the upcoming election, Talat said failure to reach agreement could result in the two communities going their separate ways.

“The international community may tolerate other types of solution, which I myself do not desire,” Talat said, alluding to the two-state model advocated by his predecessor Rauf Denktash. Such an approach has also gained newfound respectability among Turkish Cypriots as a result of Kosovo’s expected declaration of independence from Serbia – a move that looks set to be endorsed by the US and the bulk of EU member states.

The result of the election, just two weeks away, could then be vital for Talat, who has staked his own political survival on his dream of a federal solution to the island’s decades-old divide, and of getting the Turkish Cypriot community into the EU.

But that does not mean Talat will be lending his support to any of the three leading candidates currently running neck and neck. He has learnt from past experience that efforts to influence Greek Cypriot voters are likely to backfire, both on those he supports and himself.

“If I make a choice, they will lose,” Talat says, having identified what some call the “kiss of death” phenomenon, whereby Greek Cypriot politicians who gain Turkish Cypriot backing tend to lose, rather than gain, votes.

So Talat will be keeping mum this time. However, what he does not say could be seen as being just as significant as what he does. Note that now is not the time for Talat to berate AKEL candidate Demetris Christofias for withdrawing his support for the Annan plan just days before the 2004 referendum. And all attempts to draw him on whether he would trust Christofias not to repeat what has earlier been described by Talat’s party as “treachery” remain without comment.

In Talat’s mind, the result of this election is as significant as the one in 2003, which saw veteran Greek Cypriot negotiator Glafcos Clerides ousted as president by current incumbent Papadopoulos. With Clerides being one of the main architects of Talat’s beloved Annan plan, his election loss was in effect the plan’s death knell.

But what if things at the top do not change? While one assumes Talat will not be hoping for the re-election of a leader seemingly hell-bent on tripping him up at every opportunity, the Turkish Cypriot leader does not rule out the possibility that, should Papadopoulos win, he could re-emerge as a changed man with a new, more reconciliatory approach to power sharing with the Turkish Cypriots. Such a change in stance, he says, is not unprecedented.

“Clerides during his first term was hawkish; during the second, he was one of the architects of the Annan plan,” Talat recalls.

Asked for his view of relative newcomer Ioannis Kasoulides, Talat is no more committal than saying, “They’re all good guys. I expect the election to yield a result for the benefit of all Cypriots.”

Such optimism could, however, be cover for his growing fear that 2008 could be the last chance for a reunification deal.

“Our people are becoming estranged. Till now, the problem was between politicians, the elite… but now it is becoming a problem between the people,” he says.

Talat also sees the possibility that if he fails to deliver a solution to his electorate, he will ultimately be replaced by a leader who takes a tougher stance against what the Turkish Cypriots generally see as Greek Cypriot intransigence.

“Until now there is nobody more inclined than I am to a united solution,” he warns, adding that he will remain “flexible” in negotiations with his Greek Cypriot fellow negotiator.

“If I see good will, I will be more flexible.”


(Source: http://www.cyprus-mail.com)





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