Turkish Cypriot leader sworn in with 'two states' call

·2-min read
Outgoing Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (R) and the newly elected leader Ersin Tatar arrive at a handover ceremony in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) for a handover ceremony
Outgoing Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci (R) and the newly elected leader Ersin Tatar arrive at a handover ceremony in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) for a handover ceremony

Ankara-backed Ersin Tatar, the newly elected Turkish Cypriot leader, took the oath of office Friday and immediately called for a two-state solution on the divided island.

Voters in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on Sunday narrowly elected the right-wing nationalist as president at a time of heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

The supporter of a permanent partition edged out previous Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, 72, a supporter of reunification with the Greek Cypriot south.

"Equal sovereignty between the two peoples on the island and cooperation on the basis of two states is a necessity for us," he said at a swearing-in ceremony in northern Nicosia, in the presence of Vice President Fuat Oktay of Turkey, the only country that recognises the TRNC.

Tatar, 60, clinched his surprise victory in a second round of elections.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third in 1974 in reaction to a Greek-engineered coup aiming to annex the island.

On Monday, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek Cypriot leader, and Tatar agreed in a phone call to meet in the UN-patrolled buffer zone that has for decades separated the north and the south.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said he wants to rekindle talks between the two sides following the north's elections.

The last attempt at UN-mediated negotiations collapsed in Switzerland in July 2017.

The UN is now expected to convene a meeting between the two sides, Turkey, Greece and former colonial ruler Britain.

In his victory speech Sunday, Tatar said he would return to the negotiating table "when necessary", but said that Turkish Cypriots would "not compromise" on certain points essential to their "sovereignty".

"Our neighbours in the south and world community should respect our fight for freedom," Tatar said.

The TRNC is economically and politically dependent on Turkey -- not least because some 30,000 Turkish troops are on Cypriot soil.

In a call with Tatar after his victory, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said their cooperation would continue "starting with activities related to hydrocarbons".

Northern Cyprus is a centrepiece of Turkey's strategy in the eastern Mediterranean, including a bitter dispute with Greece and Cyprus over oil and gas reserves.

The European Union has deplored Turkey's drilling for hydrocarbons in disputed waters and warned Ankara against further "provocations".

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