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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Christofias to be sworn Cyprus president on Thursday ]

Christofias to be sworn Cyprus president on Thursday



Demetris Christofias will be sworn in as the sixth president of the Republic of Cyprus on Thursday having won Sunday’s run-off elections by a narrow margin.


Christofias, 62, who is soon expected to step down as Secretary General of the communist AKEL party that entered the presidential race for the first time in the Republic’s 48-year history, will take his oath in the House of Representatives which he had presided since 2001.


That year launched the three-party coalition that backed rival Tassos Papadopoulos for the presidency in 2003. But Christofias pulled his backing for the government in 2007 when Papadopoulos refused to support his candidacy in this month’s elections. As a result, Papadopoulos was defeated in the first round which moderate Euro MP Ioannis Kassoulides won.


Christofias won the second round with 53,35% of the votes and Kassoulides, backed by the right-wing Democratic Rally (DISY) took 46,65%.


The president will be making his first address to the nation in parliament after which he will receive the members and party leaders in his former office of House President. That chair is widely rumoured to go to Democratic Party (DIKO) chief Marios Karoyian for his party’s support of Christofias in the second round. DIKO is also hoping to get three seats in the Cabinet, with AKEL having four and the Socialist EDEK two. One ministerial post, as well as the European Commissioner’s office is also up for grabs if Markos Kyprianou, son of DIKO founder Spyros Kyprianou, accepts the Foreign Ministry. The Finance Minister’s job will go to a non-partisan personality, with Bank of Cyprus Group chief executive Charilaos Stavrakis tipped as front-runner.


AKEL had been against the admission of Cyprus into the euro zone on January 1, 2008. Christofias advocated a delay of a year to better prepare Cypriots for the changeover.


He grew up in communist party AKEL ranks, first as head of its youth wing, EDON, and then as AKEL Secretary-General in 1988.


Christofias is not expected to move into the Presidential Palace, his wife and Nicosia AKEL Secretary Elsie Christofias said.




 



-- Calling Moller, meeting Talat




 



The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in Cyprus, Michael Moller, has spoken to Demetris Christofias, UN spokesman Jose Diazy told the Cyprus News Agency.



“They discussed the possibility of a meeting between Mr Christofias and (Turkish Cypriot leader) Mr Talat,” he explained.



He noted that Moller is expected to meet Christofias “shortly”, once he has been sworn in.



Christofias has declared his wish to meet Talat in a bid to make progress towards the resumption of negotiations on a comprehensive settlement, that will reunite the country, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.



The president-elect is due in Athens next week for talks with the Greek government and he will also attend the Spring EU summit in Brussels.



President-elect Christofias said on Monday he sought a U.N. brokered meeting with the Turkish Cypriot side, as he came under pressure to make good on promised efforts to reunite the divided island.



As the European Union, the United States and Britain urged him to waste no time in ending the division hindering Turkey's EU's accession efforts, Chistofias said he wanted to meet Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. "I've already contacted the representative of the United Nations in Cyprus," Christofias, told Reuters in an interview. "The very first step will be an exploratory meeting with Mr Talat."


Talat said negotiations should start swiftly.


"I genuinely congratulate Mr Christofias and I call on him to cooperate in the process of negotiations which should start as soon as possible," he told a news conference.



"I would strongly encourage you to grasp this chance and without delay start negotiations under United Nations auspices with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community on a comprehensive settlement," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement to Christofias.



The United States and Britain also issued statements saying 2008 offered a window of opportunity and offering support.




 



-- Last chance




 



Analysts said both sides are aware this may be the last chance for Cyprus, whose division is also a source of tension between NATO allies Turkey and Greece.



"You have two presidents whose parties have worked hard to re-unite Cyprus for 34 years. If they don't do it, who will?" said Mete Hatay, a researcher for the PRIO peace institute in Nicosia.


The Cypriot press hailed the day as historic, both because Christofias becomes the island's first communist president and the only one in the 27-member EU, but also as an opportunity to end the island's stalemate.


"After five wasted years ... he has a moral obligation to try to make up for lost ground," wrote the Cyprus Mail.



The surprise elimination in the first round of incumbent President Tassos Papadopoulos, who led opposition to the U.N. plan in 2004, raised hopes the Greek Cypriots might be ready for a deal.



"Now there are no more excuses ... no one is left on the stage to block a solution," said Sener Levent, editor of the Turkish Cypriot Afrika newspaper in a column.


The 2004 plan, which had been approved by Turkish Cypriots, called for a loose federation of separate states. A U.N. team was expected on the island by early April to assess the potential for a settlement, diplomats said.


"Mediators want to see Talat and Christofias talking, that is the first crucial step," said a Western diplomat in Nicosia. "Mediators will facilitate but the initiatives and proposals must come from the Cypriots."





(Source: Financial Mirror)



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