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Greek Cypriots Say Turkish Cypriot Vote Result 'Negative Development'

(RFE/RL) -- It's safe to say that neither the Greek Cypriots nor the Turkish government in Ankara are pleased with the election of veteran Turkish Cypriot nationalist Dervis Eroglu as president of the Turkish part of the island.

The April 18 vote gave Eroglu just over 50 percent of the tally, with his moderate opponent, incumbent Mehmet Ali Talat, taking just under 43 percent.

Eroglu has been a supporter of independence for the Turkish north of Cyprus, a position that has been ruled out by the Greek Cypriots who control the rest of the island.

A spokesman, Stefanos Stefanou, for the government of Cyprus -- in effect the Greek Cypriots -- described Eroglu's election as a "negative development". He said the government must find out how it can continue to work for a peaceful settlement under these circumstances.

In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was less direct, but his message was equally clear.

Ankara had backed Talat, a moderate in favor of the UN-backed peace talks, in the election, and Erdogan said on Turkish television as Eroglu's lead in the election became evident: "Whoever is elected president, he should be determined to continue this [peace] process. This is a decision made by Turkey as a guarantor power."

He was in effect telling Eroglu to get on with the UN-backed peace process for Cyprus, and quickly too.

"It is our aim to find a solution by the end of the year," Erdogan added. "This is the outcome we have come to, after holding talks with our friends, because as the problem remains on the table, it annoys both sides."

Turkey's chief "annoyance" in this case is that the government of EU-member Cyprus has pledged to keep blocking Turkey's bid to join the EU until the division of the island is ended.

Eroglu denied he is an impediment to peace. "As a person who knows what happened between the south and the north, between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, I can say that I want a solution more than those who are claiming that I am against a solution," he said as he celebrated victory, "because I personally witnessed those [events]."

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkish forces invaded after a coup by supporters of a Cypriot union with Turkey's rival Greece. Turkey still maintains some 30,000 troops in Northern Cyprus.

with agency reports

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