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Vote Count Begins in Turkish-Cyprus Election

Nathan Morley | Nicosia 18 April 2010

Turkish Cypriots went to the polls Sunday to elect their president in a vote seen as crucial to the future of reunification talks.

Initial partial results in Cyprus show a hardline challenger nearing the 50 percent threshold needed to win a key Turkish-Cypriot leadership election. Dervis Eroglu has a slight lead over incumbent Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.

Pro-reunification candidate Talat has been in power since 2005. Eroglu opposes reunification with Greek Cyprus in the south, instead wanting a two-state solution.

A two-state solution is an option vehemently rejected by Greek Cypriots.

A Talat defeat has heightened fears that reunification talks, which have been ongoing since 2008, between Greek and Turkish Cypriots could fall apart. The negotiations have been described as the 'last chance' for Cyprus peace.

Speaking moments after voting, Talat said election laws bar him from commenting on the election result, but wished all candidates luck.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat casts his vote during leadership elections in the Turkish occupied area in the coastal city of Kyrenia, Cyprus, 18 Apr 2010
AP
Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat casts his vote during leadership elections in the Turkish occupied area in the coastal city of Kyrenia, Cyprus, 18 Apr 2010

"I wish all the best to everybody, both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots. I am sure that it will be for the benefit of the whole island. That is my expectation and my wish," said Talat.

After casting his ballot, challenger Eroglu told reporters he hoped he would be in a position to continue Cyprus peace talks.

"I am also willing to have a settlement in Cyprus," said Eroglu.

Regardless of the outcome, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Cypriot leaders to continue peace talks after the elections.

The continuing division of Cyprus also poses one of the most difficult issues affecting EU-Turkey relations, with the future of Turkey's accession talks hinging on the successful resolution of the problem.

More than 155,000 voters cast ballots. A strong turnout compared to five years ago.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded the northern part of the island in response to a military coup that was backed by the Greek government.

South Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004 and the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey.



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