Cyprus’s president-elect makes reunification of island his top priority

Nicos Christodoulides seeks to form broad, gender-balanced cabinet and says he will reach out to Turkish Cypriots

Cyprus’s president-elect Nicos Christodoulides on Monday consulted political party leaders on the formation of a cabinet of “broad social acceptance” composed of young people and technocrats, of whom 50 per cent are to be women.

He proposed meeting Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, who called to congratulate him and extended condolences over the deaths of Turkish Cypriots in the earthquake that devastated Turkey and Syria.

Mr Christodoulides won 52 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s run-off poll, defeating Andreas Mavroyiannis, with 48 per cent, after eliminating a dozen other candidates in the first round on February 5th.

The president-elect, a former foreign minister and centre-right Democratic Rally politician, ran as an independent after the Rally backed its chairman, Averoff Neophitou. Mr Mavroyiannis, a career diplomat, stood as an independent backed by the communist Akel party. Both parties are widely unpopular. The Rally has been accused of corruption during its decade in power while the 2013 bank crash is blamed on ex-president Demetris Christofias of Akel.


Mr Christodoulides has pledged to bridge the right-left divide and reach out to Turkish Cypriots with the aim of reuniting the island, divided since Turkey occupied the north in 1974 following a failed coup by the Greek junta. The republic, most Turkish Cypriots and the international community call for reunification in a bizonal, bicommunal federation.

Ankara and the current Turkish Cypriot administration have demanded a “two-state solution” involving recognition of a separate state. Greek Cypriot hardliners agree with this proposition.

During his victory address on Sunday night, Mr Christodoulides stated, “My top priority is the reunification of our homeland. I will do everything to break the stalemate. It is my goal to restart dialogue and find a solution that we can leave to our children.”

Directly addressing “Turkish Cypriot compatriots, who are having a difficult time in recent days”, he said “I share their pain and express that we stand by them.”

At least 35 Turkish Cypriots were killed when their hotel collapsed in the earthquake, including 16 members of girls’ and boys’ volleyball teams who were playing in a competition.

Instead of bringing the Cypriot communities together, aid to earthquake victims has been politicised. Turkey rejected the Cyprus republic’s offer to dispatch rescue teams and material aid to the quake area. A joint Turkish-Greek Cypriot team was proposed but not formed.

An effort to deliver Greek Cypriot aid via Turkish Cypriots was briefly blocked at a crossing point on the dividing line after Turkish Cypriot foreign minister Tahsin Ertugruloglu accused Greek Cypriots of having “insidious dreams [of reunion]” and “trying to separate Turkish Cypriots from motherland Turkey”. He was severely castigated by Turkish Cypriot opposition leaders.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times