NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – A hardliner who won the Turkish Cypriot-led election said on Sunday he was ready to resume sleepless talks aimed at ending Cyprus’ 46-year ethnic division, as long as rivals that Greek Cypriots spoke to the strength of the Turkish region.
Ersin Tatar, who favors the full adjustment of Turkish Cypriot policies to Turkey’s regional backers, said any peace agreement should take into account “facts” in and around the broken war island of the Mediterranean. Tatar spoke after defeating leftist incumbent Mustafa Akinci in a runoff.
“It will not be difficult to come to an agreement at the negotiating table if our Greek and Greek Cypriots friends properly study the strategic, economic and social balance in our region,”; Tatar told supporters at a speech of victory over the Turkish Cypriot half of the Cypriot capital Nicosia.
“They should know that if they continue these careless behaviors, we will not give up our rights.”
Tatar also urged the European Union and the United Nations to be “fair” and change the course on how to negotiate because their previous strategy failed.
“You will no longer ignore the rights of the Cypriot Turks,” Tatar said.
Cyprus split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by union supporters in Greece. Turkey only recognizes a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north that is economically and militarily dependent on Ankara. The world-recognized island government has a seat in the southern Greek Cypriot and part of the 27-nation European Union.
Tatar, a 60-year-old scion of Turkish Cypriot political leaders, beat Akinci in a close-knit runoff plagued by allegations of Turkey’s “unprecedented” meddling in an attempt to gather vote for the challenger.
Turkish Cypriot broadcaster BRT said with 100% of the votes counted, Tatar got 51.74% of the vote compared to 48.26% for Akinci.
Akinci, 72, a Turkish Cypriot champion who opposed Turkey’s complete dominance of their affairs and a supporter of a federal deal with Greek Cypriots, agreed to defeat Tatar in a speech to supporters campaign headquarters, congratulating his opponent on his success.
“We went through an unusual election contest … The results mark the end of my 45-year political career,” Akinci said. “I wish luck to our town.”
Tatar criticized what he said as “accusing the motherland of making the election a political tool” and expressing pride that “Turkey is always by our side.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took to his official Twitter account to congratulate Tatar for his election victory.
“Turkey will continue to make every necessary effort to defend the rights of Turkish Cypriots,” Erdogan said.
Nearly five decades of UN facilitating attempts to achieve reunification based on a federal framework have failed.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to convene a meeting immediately to bring together the two sides and the “guarantors” of Cyprus – Greece, Turkey and Britain – to cover the chances of continuing the talks.
A reboot negotiations could help alleviate rising water tensions in Greece and Cyprus at sea borders and energy exploration rights after Turkey re-provided a research vessel near the island of Kastellorizo of Greece.
Turkey asserts that it has every legal right to search for hydrocarbons in waters where Greece and Cyprus claim exclusive economic rights. Greek and Cypriot governments have accused Turkey of violating international law. The dispute raised fears of a military conflict between Greece and Turkey, which are NATO members but strong rivals in the region.
Tatar told The Associated Press in an interview last month that tensions would be lifted if Greek Cypriots agreed to divide Cyprus’ territorial waters and drilling rights with Turkish Cypriots before continuing formal talks peace.
He also shared the Turkish government’s view that a federation may not be the most viable option and alternatives such as a two-state deal should be pursued.
Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said Ankara would not negotiate peace talks if Greek Cypriots did not initially agree to share powers in decision making to the minority of Turkish Cypriots at all levels of a predicted federal government. He said the alternative was to start talks on an agreement between the two states.
Analyst Tumay Tugyan said he hopes talks about peace will be more complicated with Tatar now at the helm.
But he said the Turkish Cypriot side had committed itself to a federal model in previous talks and it would have been difficult to shift that basis to others.
Tugyan said what would change dramatically was the Turkish Cypriots’ relationship with Turkey that “disruption” in their activities would “be stronger than ever.”