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Turkish Cypriots go to polls in crucial vote

RIA Novosti


MOSCOW, April 18 (RIA Novosti) - Residents of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus vote in a presidential election on Sunday, which could further complicate the island's reunification process and Turkey's accession to the EU.

Various opinion polls put the incumbent Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat behind his main rival, hardline right-winger Prime Minister Dervis Eroglu.

Since 2008 Talat has been in talks with Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christophias on reunification of the island, which has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a military coup on the island that was backed by Athens.

Talat puts forward a proposal of a bi-zonal bi-communal federation with a single government, in which the two parts of Cyprus will be vested with equal status.

Eroglu, in his turn, offers a "honorable solution" based on a confederation of two sovereign states. He, however, rules out that any Greek Cypriot will be allowed to return to land now held by Turks.

Reunification with its richer neighbor is seen as a solution to economic problems of northern Cyprus, which has an annual budget deficit of nearly $1 billion, covered by Turkey.

Reunification issue is crucial for Turkey, which started EU entry talks almost five years ago, but Cyprus has repeatedly used its EU membership to hamper Turkey's accession efforts.

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