Turkish Cypriot president Mehmet Ali Talat said on Tuesday the election of a new Greek Cypriot president offered a last chance for reunification and he believed a "solution" could be found by the end of 2008.
President Demetris Christofias has pledged to relaunch efforts to reunite the ethnically divided Mediterranean island, which is a hurdle to Turkey's hopes of joining the European Union.
"A new phase of negotiations may start by about April. We have every reason to expect a solution by the end of the year." Talat said.
The island has been split since 1974 when Turkey entered after a brief Greek-inspired coup. Reunification efforts broke down in 2004 when Greek Cypriots rejected a U.N. plan and a divided Cyprus joined the EU soon afterwards.
A communist party leader who says he will not tamper with the island's market economy, Christofias rode a wave of discontent with his predecessor's hardline policies towards Turkish Cypriots to win Sunday's runoff election.
Talat said his victory offered hope after five wasted years during which the two sides grew further apart. A U.N. team was due on Cyprus by April to assess how willing the two sides were to negotiate.
"Time is very limited," Talat said. "In the next couple of years we must use this window of opportunity because it may be the last one. I really believe that."
Talat said a solution hinged on the willingness of Greek Cypriots to share power with Turkish Cypriots on an equal basis.
"We must show our real intentions," he said. "For us, political equality is a top priority."
He said the 2004 UN plan, which Turkish Cypriots approved but Greek Cypriots rejected in a referendum, was the last proposal on the table and things will have to start from there. Christofias has said that plan is history.
"Any negotiation process starts from where it was last left," Talat said.
As the years go by, even Turkish Cypriots are becoming more used to their status and may not offer popular support to a solution, he said.
His breakaway state in the north of the island is recognised only by Turkey, which keeps about 30,000 troops there.
The European Union recognises the Greek Cypriot government in the south as nominally representing the whole island in the bloc. The north has enjoyed none of the benefits of EU.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 27 Şubat 2008, 10:15