Cyprus sees reunification hope after Turkish Cypriot vote

Nicosia (AFP) - Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he saw new hope of ending the island's decades-long division after the election of reconciliation champion Mustafa Akinci as Turkish Cypriot leader.

"At long last hope is created that our homeland can be reunited to create a modern state governed by EU principles, creating the prospects of cooperation, peace and tranquility," Anastasiades told a conference in Nicosia.

"Our hand is stretched out... as an invitation for cooperation. I would like to believe there will be a response so there can be prospects for security and prosperity," the Greek Cypriot leader added.

Anastasiades has already congratulated Akinci on his election victory and will be contacting him again soon to arrange a meeting with a view to the resumption of UN-brokered reunification talks, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulou said.

UN envoy Espen Barth Eide is due back in Cyprus from May 4 to 8 to continue preparations for the talks' resumption after the Greek Cypriots ended a six-month boycott, the United Nations said.

Akinci comfortably defeated nationalist incumbent Dervis Eroglu in a second-round runoff on Sunday for the presidency of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Akinci, a former mayor of the Turkish Cypriot part of the island's divided capital and a vocal advocate of reconciliation with Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, won 60.5 percent of the vote.

Akinci will now be tasked with heading negotiations with Anastasiades aimed at reunifying the Mediterranean island after more than 40 years of division.

- Erdogan raps new leader -

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave Akinci a rap on the knuckles after the new Turkish Cypriot leader said Turkey and the TRNC should enjoy a relationship of "brotherly countries" rather than mother and child.

Speaking to reporters at an Ankara airport, Erdogan said: "Mr President (Akinci) should listen to what he says."

A UN-monitored ceasefire line has divided the island since 1974 when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

The Turkish Cypriots, who had already pulled out of government institutions in the face of communal violence in 1963, declared their breakaway state in 1983.

But it is recognised only by Turkey, which provides around a third of its budget.

Voters said they hoped for a leader who would end the Turkish Cypriots' international isolation.

Anastasiades welcomed Akinci's win, tweeting on Sunday that it was "a hopeful development for our common homeland".

The two men later spoke by telephone and expressed "the desire for genuine reunification of our country".

The Greek Cypriot press too broadly welcomed the Turkish Cypriot election outcome.

"A page has turned with Akinci," headlined the mass-circulation Phileleftheros newspaper.

The independent Politis daily called the result a "second spring," while the communist Haravghi newspaper headlined that Turkish Cypriot voters had extended an "olive branch with the bloom of hope".

Anastasiades told the United Nations this month he was ready to resume reunification talks after Sunday's Turkish Cypriot election.

He had boycotted them for six months in protest at Turkish moves to explore possibile oil and gas reserves off Cyprus.

Both Ankara and Washington voiced hope last week that 2015 could finally be the year that Cyprus is reunited.

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