Independent candidate Mustafa Akinci won a surprise victory to become president of Northern Cyprus on Sunday (26 April), beating incubent Dervis Eroglu in a result that could prove a breakthrough for peace talks on the divided island.
Akinci, a 67-year old former deputy prime minister and mayor of North Nicosia, won 60.5 percent of the votes.
The conservative Eroglu, who narrowly won the first round, only got 39.5 percent in the run-off.
One of Akinci’s main campaign themes was the need to reach out to the Greek side of the island, the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus, an EU member since 2004.
"We achieved change and my policy will be focused on reaching a peace settlement," Akinci said at a victory rally Sunday evening in the Turkish part of Nicosia.
"This country cannot tolerate any more wasted time," he added.
The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was created in 1983 after the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974 and is recognised only by Ankara.
During the campaign, Akinci - described as a leftist moderate - proposed confidence-building measures such as opening a new checkpoint between the two parts of the island or creating a common mobile phone network.
He also mentioned reopening the abandoned sea resort of Varosha, which is under UN control. The status of the town, deserted by its Greek inhabitants in 1974, has been an ongoing blocking point in discussions between Greek and Turkish sides.
Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades welcomed Akinci's victory.
Akinci is "a man who through his public discourse and declarations, has referred to the need for reunification of the country," Anastasiades’ spokesman said.
Anastasiades broke off peace talks with Eroglu last Autumn after a dispute over rights to explore gas deposits off the Turkish Cyprus’ coast.
Ahead of the election, Akinci said the gas exploitation represented a "new dynamic" for the island and should benefit both sides.
"Anastasiades and I are [of] the same generation. If we can't solve this now, it will be a tremendous burden on future generations," Akinci said after the vote.
Both men spoke on the phone Sunday evening and "expressed the wish to work for the reunification of our country," said Anastasiades’ spokesman.
The talks, which have taken place on and off under UN supervision since 1974, could resume soon.
UN envoy Espen Barth Eide welcomed Akinci’s "commitment to resuming negotiations as soon as possible".
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