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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The Turkish Cypriot leader in split Cyprus' breakaway north says his hardline party's victory in weekend parliamentary elections is an endorsement for his controversial stance on resolving the island's ethnic division that's in line with Turkey's policy.
Ersin Tatar said Wednesday that some 60% of Sunday's vote went to parties aligned with his vision of “equal sovereignty” with the Greek Cypriots, who control the east Mediterranean island state's internationally recognized government. He added in a statement that the international community should respect Turkish-Cypriot voters’ will.
Tatar, backed by the Turkish government, wants a two-state settlement with the Greek Cypriots — instead of the internationally backed federation-based deal to end the island's 48-year division.
“The vision for a settlement based on sovereign equality ... would boost confidence-building and trust on the island and make Cyprus a beacon of peace,” Tatar said.
Cyprus was cleaved along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aimed at union with Greece. A declaration of independence by the minority Turkish Cypriots in 1983 is recognized only by Turkey, which maintains more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north.
Although the whole of Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, only the Greek Cypriot-dominated south enjoys full membership benefits.
Negotiations to reunify Cyprus as a federation composed of Turkish- and Greek-speaking zones have enjoyed strong international backing and an endorsement from the United Nations Security Council.
But numerous rounds of U.N.-sponsored talks over nearly five decades have gone nowhere. Following the most recent collapse of high-level talks in July 2017, Turkey and Tatar said a federation-based deal was a “waste of time.”
Greek Cypriots vehemently reject the idea, insisting that it would mark the island’s permanent partition and render it subservient to Ankara’s regional ambitions.
Tatar's National Unity Party took nearly 40% of Sunday's vote, while three other smaller hardline parties split another 20% between them. The only leftist party to earn seats, the Republican Turkish Party, garnered almost 32%.
Many voters who traditionally voted for leftist parties opted to shun the election as part of a boycott to register their disenchantment with the north’s Ankara-aligned policies as well as a faltering economy. Voter turnout was a record low of just under 58%.
Izzet Izcan, leader of the tiny United Cyprus Party which refused to field candidates, said Turkey is fronting a policy of “conquest,” adding that the left would continue to oppose pro-partition, two-state proposals.