Turkish Cypriot leader: Gas may fund peace deal

DAILY SABAH WITH AP
ISTANBUL
Published 06.04.2016 00:29

The Turkish Cypriot President says the ethnically divided island's potential wealth from newly found offshore gas reserves could be used to partly fund a costly reunification deal.

Mustafa Akıncı stated on Monday that a peace accord may cost more than initial estimates. He said gas could boost energy cooperation and foster peace in a tumultuous region, but warned unilateral drilling by Greek Cypriots could re-ignite tensions. Akıncı said "we are closer than ever before" to a peace deal, but the pace of negotiations has slowed down because of parliamentary elections in the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south next month. He said Turkish Cypriots should remain a majority in the area that they will administer within an envisioned two-zone federation.

Furthermore, the center-right National Unity Party (UBP) in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), currently the junior partner in a coalition with the center-left Republican Turkish Party (CTP), announced on Saturday that they will withdraw from the government after civil servants' salaries could not be fully paid. The UBP said in a parliament meeting that the government could no longer fulfill its functions and they could not remain in power under such circumstances. The party's chairman, Hüseyin Özgürgün, has accordingly said that five ministers from the UBP in the 10-member cabinet will resign on Monday.

Özgürgün reportedly told private Turkish broadcaster NTV that the failure to pay civil servants' salaries was the last straw and that withdrawing from the government, which would likely lead to an early election, was the best decision that could be taken in such circumstances. If the UBP leaves the coalition, TRNC Prime Minister Ömer Kalyoncu is expected to resign, and the race would be on to succeed him.

TRNC is in the midst of talks with the Greek Cypriot administration, and hope has run high that a reunification agreement would be reached this year. The UBP last year formed a coalition government with the Republican Turkish Party-United Forces (CTP-BG). The CTP-BG currently has 20 seats in the Turkish Cypriot parliament while the UBP has 18. The Democratic Party-National Forces (DP-UG) has five deputies, the Communal Democracy Party (TDP) has three and there are four independent deputies.

The island was divided into a Turkish Cypriot government in the northern third and a Greek Cypriot government in the southern two-thirds of the island after a 1974 military coup by Greece was followed by an intervention by Turkey as a guarantor state. Border gates between Turkish Cyprus and Greek Cyprus were opened in April 2003.

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