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New Cypriot Leader Takes Office with Pledge for Solution

by Xinhua, February 28, 2008

"The solution of the Cyprus problem will be the top priority of my government," the left-wing former Parliament Speaker declared.

He assured Turkish Cypriot compatriots in the north that he will work to let them enjoy "all the rights as equal citizens of a united federal Republic of Cyprus."

Map of Cyprus NICOSIA -- Cyprus' new President Demetris Christofias took office on Thursday, pledging reunification is the new government's top priority.

"The solution of the Cyprus problem is the main reason I made the decision to run for the Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus," Christofias told the parliament during a swear-in ceremony.

"The solution of the Cyprus problem will be the top priority of my government," the left-wing former Parliament Speaker declared.

He assured Turkish Cypriot compatriots in the north that he will work to let them enjoy "all the rights as equal citizens of a united federal Republic of Cyprus."

However, he added that this cannot take place "at the expense of the rights of the Greek Cypriot and of our Maronite, Armenian and Latin compatriots."

In obvious response to repeated calls by Turkish Cypriots for political equality of the two main communities, Christofias said he supports political equality, but it should be within the framework of a federation, as defined in the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat expressed on Monday at a press conference his willingness to re-start the deadlocked reunification talks as soon as possible, with the new pro-solution Greek Cypriot leader.

He reiterated his position that "a new partnership state of Cyprus should be established based on the political equality" of the two communities.

Meanwhile, Talat warned against any "image polishing attempt," which he said will be damaging and leads to permanent partition of the island.

Talat holds a cautiously optimistic view that a possible solution may be worked out by the end of 2008 if all the parties concerned work hard for that.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey militarily intervened and occupied the north of the island following a coup by a group of Greek officers who pushed for a union with Greece.

In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot authorities broke away from the Greek side and set up "the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," which is recognized only by Turkey.

For several decades, the United Nations has tried to persuade the two communities to find a viable solution but has so far failed due to the lack of political will among the island's leaders.

Christofias took the helm from Tassos Papadopoulos, a hardliner who led Greek Cypriots in 2004 into rejecting a comprehensive UN solution for Cyprus problem. He was eliminated in the first round of the presidential election on Feb. 17.

The new Cyprus President also told Turkey, which has maintained some 30,000 to 40,000 troops in the Turkish Cypriot north, that "the key to the solution is in the hands of Ankara," adding "it is Turkey that has to decide to cooperate for a solution."