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Turkish Cypriot leader ready for reunification talks
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Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat expressed on Monday his willingness to revive the deadlocked reunification talks with the new Greek Cypriot leader and president to be elected in next Sunday's run-off election.


"As the Turkish Cypriot side, we are ready to contribute to these efforts and find an early, just and comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem," Talat said in a written statement.


He made the remarks one day after the incumbent President Tassos Papadopoulos, a hardliner on the Greek Cypriot side, was knocked out during the first round of presidential election.


Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey militarily intervened and occupied the north of the island following a coup by a group of Greek officers who pushed for union with Greece.


In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot authorities, now under Talat's leadership, declared breakaway and set up "the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," which is recognized only by Turkey.


For several decades, the United Nations has continuously worked to persuade the two communities to find a viable solution to the Cyprus issue.


In a referendum held in April 2004, Papadopoulos led Greek Cypriot into rejecting a comprehensive settlement plan by then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, for fear that it would be in Turkey's favor, while Turkish Cypriot approved it. The reunification talks has been deadlocked since then.


On Sunday, Papadopoulos was eliminated by former Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and Parliament Speaker Demetris Christofias. The later two, both want to renew negotiations with Turkish Cypriot side, will face a final showdown in a run-off on Feb. 24.


Papadopoulos' defeat was interpreted as a clear signal that most Greek Cypriot desire for a change in policies and tactics applied to the reunification talks with Turkish Cypriot living in the isolated north.


Commenting on the outcome of the poll, Talat said it "raises hopes that the deadlock in the negotiations process can be overcome."


He hoped that the change of leadership in the Greek Cypriot south would lead to "positive results" for a comprehensive solution.


However, he reiterated that the Turkish Cypriot are for "a new partnership state based on the political equality of the two peoples and the equal status of two constituent states."


This formula had in the past been rejected by some Greek Cypriot politicians, who argued that they were seeking "real reunification."


(Xinhua News Agency February 19, 2008)

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