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Cyprus Peace Talks Face Dual Threat

The talks to re-unite Cyprus are under threat. In a VOA interview, Northern Cyprus Prime Minister-elect Dervis Eroglu cast doubt that negotiations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots will yield any results.

A recent election that will hand over control of the Turkish Cypriot parliament to hardliners, could jeopardize U.N.-sponsored talks between Cyprus' Greek and Turkish communities aimed at ending the island's 35-year division.

The hardliners, headed by Dervis Eroglu, are unhappy with the talks and want a two-state solution and not a bizonal, bicommunal federation now being negotiated.

Prime Minister-elect Eroglu, told VOA the negotiations that re-started last year are the 'last chance' for Cyprus peace.

"Turkish Cypriots are starting to get fed up with this whole negotiating process, and they are losing their interest. People are more bothered about economic problems, their daily life, they do not ask anymore about the talks. If we cannot use this last chance, Turkish Cypriots will start to think only about their own state," he said.

Another blow to the peace talks came this week when the European Union's top court ruled that ethnic Greeks on the divided island are entitled to reclaim property abandoned in the north when Turkish troops invaded in 1974.

The European Court of Justice ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by a Greek Cypriot Meletis Apostolides, who was forced to abandon his land and move to the south after the Turkish invasion split the island.

The land parcel was later acquired by a British couple, who the court said could be sued in any EU country and eventually forced to either compensate Apostolides or return the property.

Eroglu said this new twist could destroy the talks.

"The decision of the European Court Of Justice, if accepted as it is in the British High Court of appeal, this will mean that it will not be meaningful for us to continue the negotiations. This will affect very negatively the process," he added.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the EU ruling could hurt peace talks and could encourage Greek Cypriots to take legal action against foreigners living in disputed properties in northern Cyprus, which is self-governing and still occupied by the Turkish army..

Eroglu stressed he would not ask for an end to the U.N. peace talks, but said the public would believe any further talks between the two communities would be pointless if the European Court's decision is accepted by the British justice system.

"Our people will believe that it is meaningless to be at the negotiating table and they will put pressure on us to finish this process," he said.

Eroglu's right-wing National Unity Party took 44 percent of the vote, while the opposition Republican Turkish Party took 29 percent.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern part of the island in response to a military coup that was backed by the Greek government. South Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004 and the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey.