Leftist victory revives hopes for a united Cyprus

The leader of the Cypriot Communist Party, Demetris Christofias, won the presidential election yesterday, reviving hopes for a solution on the divided island that could have ramifications well beyond Cyprus.

Mr Christofias won 53.36 per cent of the vote, becoming the island's first communist president, albeit a communist who accepts the country's market economy. His right-wing rival, Ioannis Kassoulides, had 46.64 per cent.

While much of the focus beyond Cyprus has been on Mr Christofias's communist background and education in Moscow, on the island voters have been more concerned with a solution to Europe's longest running conflict.

The election comes four years after Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected a UN-backed plan to reunite the island, which has been split between Turkish and Greek zones since Turkey invaded in 1974 to crush a coup backed by the junta then in power in Athens.

The outgoing president, Tassos Papadopoulos, surprisingly defeated in a first round of voting last weekend, was a hardliner who put all his energy into scuppering the so-called Annan plan. Mr Christofias has made it clear he has no intention of continuing with Mr Papadopoulos' intransigence. "We will roll up our sleeves and work hard so that our island is reunified," he told reporters after voting in Nicosia.

A deputy in Mr Christofias's Akel party, Takis Hadjigeorgiou says he expects the new President to start pushing for a restart to talks "as of Monday".

While 76 per cent of Greek Cypriots voted against the Annan plan in 2004, sabotaging four and a half years of negotiations, recent polls suggest that most now support efforts to find a solution.

Once a pariah state recognised only by Turkey, Turkish northern Cyprus has begun creeping out of three decades of international isolation since 2004, and getting wealthier.

Greek Cypriots from the north are aware this is probably their last chance to recuperate lost property, or get financial restitution.

"If we can't solve this problem, life will solve it," said Makarios Drousiotis, a prominent Greek Cypriot commentator. "If no common ground is found within a year, de facto separation will become permanent."

Cypriots are not the only ones likely to be affected by the election result. It looks set to give a major push to Turkey's struggling European Union bid, boosting Brussels' tarnished credentials as a truly international actor in the process.

Made an EU member a month after it rejected the UN plan, Mr Papadopoulos's Cyprus reneged on a 1999 promise not to block Turkey's accession progress by vetoing Turkish-EU negotiations in a number of critical issues.

"Those opposed to Turkey's EU membership are doing everything they can to get Turkey to walk away of its own accord," said Hugh Pope, co-author of a report on Cyprus published last month by the International Crisis Group.

Turkey's continued refusal fully to recognise Cyprus "is the most effective tool they have to do that". In retaliation for what it perceives as Brussels being held hostage by Cyprus, Turkey has used its Nato membership to block EU-Nato co-operation over peacekeepers in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

The fear among Turkish pro-Europeans is that, while both sides in Cyprus, the EU, the US and the UN are keen to see talks resume, Cyprus' diplomatic guerrilla tactics have so angered Turkey that it might be less enthusiastic.

"We gave a hand and they took an arm", a senior Turkish government official said, referring to Turkey's 2004 decision to back the UN plan after three decades of hawkish posturing had convinced the world that it was the main obstacle to a solution on the island.

Turkish public support for the EU accession process has slumped since then from 70 per cent to about 40 per cent. Despite recent promises from Turkey's Foreign Minister that 2008 "will be an EU year", Europe appears to have all but disappeared from the government's agenda.

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
VIDEO
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
News
With its new studios in Paris, Dailymotion has reinforced its position as Europe’s most-visited website
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit