Turkish Cypriots elect leftist moderate as new leader

KONFRONTASI-A leftist moderate promising to press for a peace deal in ethnically split Cyprus has swept to victory in a Turkish Cypriot presidential election run-off.

Mustafa Akinci, standing as an independent, won 60.3 percent of the votes, according to figures provided on Monday by the election commission of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

His rival was incumbent president Dervis Eroglu, a conservative elected five years ago.

Akinci, 67, has said he would work with fresh urgency to find a peace deal on Cyprus, split in a 1974 Turkish invasion that was prompted by a short-lived Greek-inspired coup aimed at union with Greece.

Peace talks were suspended last October, when Greek Cypriots walked out of the process in a row over Turkish rights to explore for natural gas off northern Cyprus.

Cyprus is represented internationally and in the EU by the Greek Cypriot government that controls the southern portion of the island.

The northern Cyprus state is recognised only by Turkey and subject to international sanctions.

Speaking to Reuters news agency on Saturday, Akinci said natural gas discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean represented a "new dynamic" that could benefit countries in the region, and that confidence-building measures were needed between the two sides.

"There is a possibility for all sides to win," he said.

Cyprus's division is a source of tension between NATO allies Greece and Turkey and also weighs on Turkish relations with the EU, where Greek Cypriots represent the entire island.

Reunification talks have limped on for years, leaving Turkish Cypriots in political isolation and tens of thousands of Cypriots on both sides internally displaced.

The UN says it expects talks to restart next month on the island, a British colony until 1960, after a six-month hiatus.[mr/reuters/aje]