Mustafa Akinci elected leader of Turkish Cypriots

By Menelaos Hadjicostis, AP

NICOSIA, Cyprus–Mustafa Akinci, a veteran politician with a strong track record of reaching out to rival Greek Cypriots, was elected Sunday as leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots in ethnically divided Cyprus, pledging to focus his energy on breaking decades of stalemate and achieving an accord reunifying the small island nation.

Akinci handily defeated hard-line incumbent Dervis Eroglu with 60.5 percent of the vote, final official results showed. The turnout was just over 64 percent of about 177,000 registered voters.

Akinci is seen as a moderate who can propel forward stalled reunification talks that are expected to resume next month. Akinci rode a wave of discontent with five years of rule by Eroglu, who failed to rally right-wing supporters.

��We achieved change and my policy will be focused on reaching a peace settlement,�� Akinci told thousands of exuberant supporters at a victory rally. ��This country cannot tolerate any more wasted time.��

Akinci said that he had already spoken to Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and both men agreed to meet soon.

U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide congratulated Akinci on his win and ��welcomed his commitment to resuming negotiations as soon as possible,�� the U.N. said in a statement. Eide will return to the island early next month to prepare for the resumption of talks that Anastasiades put on hold following a clash over rights to the island’s offshore natural gas reserves.

Anastasiades tweeted late Sunday that Akinci’s election win is ��a hopeful development for our common homeland,�� adding that he looks forward to meeting him.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and maintains more than 30,000 troops in the north. Cyprus is a European Union member, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys benefits.