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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 2 May 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 2 MAY 2015 25 GREECE Akinci wins Turkish Cypriot elections Former mayor raises hopes for peace process MICHAEL SWEET A left-wing moderate has won the presidential election in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, in a move that many see as a major breakthrough in the stalled reunification talks. Mustafa Akinci, the 67-year-old former mayor of the Turkish half of Nicosia, was returned last weekend by a large majority, gaining more than 60 per cent of the vote compared to less than 40 per cent for the outgoing conservative Dervis Eroglu. During his election campaign, Akinci promised to do his utmost to end four decades of division on the island. Commentators have declared the result a significant boost for the chances of moving the stalled UN-brokered negotiations forward. Dr Michalis Michael, deputy director for the Centre of Dialogue and senior research fellow at La Trobe University, told Neos Kosmos that Akinci's elevation to being the leader and chief negotiator for the Turkish Cypriots offers the best hope for resolving 'the Cyprus problem'. "Without a doubt, Akinci is one of the most pro-solution and pro-reconciliation politicians in Cyprus, and with his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades, there appears to be a real synergy - a meeting of minds - at least at a leadership level, to break the deadlock," said Dr Michael. "While a solution may not exclusively depend on personalities alone - as we witnessed during the Christofias-Talat period - Akinci's election constitutes a strong sign from the Turkish Cypriots to reach out to the Greek Cypriots and forge together a common destiny within the EU, and away from their dependency on Ankara. "For all those who truly wish to see a re-unified, prosperous and peaceful Cyprus, including here in Australia, now is the time to lend their support and contribute Meanwhile the Anastasiavernment will be lookor immediate gestures of goodwill to back up Akinci's ords. The Republic of Cyprus has made long-standing requests for Varosha, a resort wn in the north (under the control of the Turkish army since 1974) to be opened up. In return for Varosha, the ernment has said it would w direct flights into the north and open up Famagusta port to international traffic. Such actions would reduce the global isolation Turkish Cypriots have felt since their 1991 unilateral proclamation of independence. Newly-elected Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci with his wife Miral after his convincing victory in the polls last weekend. in a positive way to the reinvigorated peace process." On the eve of the election Mr Akinci described UN negotiations - planned to start again next month - as holding "a possibility for all sides to win". Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades congratulated Akinci on the result and called him personally last Sunday. In a statement to the media, government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said: "The Republic of Cyprus PHOTO: AP/PETROS KARADJIAS. welcomes the choice of Mustafa Akinci as the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, a man who through his public discourse and declarations, has referred to the need for reunification of the country." Increasing colonisation of the island's north by Anatolians has prompted complaints by the 120,000-strong urkish Cypriot community, particularly over perceived 'Islamisation' under the governing AKP party in Turkey. With 35,000 Turkish troops in northern Cyprus, moderates in the community have also voiced grievances about militarisation. They will look to Akinci to make real his vow that both communities "must heal our wounds together". Greece struggles to make payments to more than 2m pensioners The Greek government was struggling on Thursday to complete payments to more than 2 million pensioners after claiming that a "technical hitch" had delayed an earlier disbursement. Elderly Athenians waited at branches of the National Bank of Greece, the statecontrolled lender handling the bulk of pension payments, which are staggered over several days. "Normally I only withdraw half the money at the end of the month, but today I'm taking it all," said Sotiria Zlatini, 75, a former civil servant. "There are so many rumours going round because of the government's problems and what happened two days ago." The left wing SYRIZA-led government scrambled to pay pensions and public sector salaries in February and March after failing to reach agreement with international lenders on unlocking €7.2bn of bailout aid. On Tuesday, the main state social security fund, IKA, delayed pension payments by almost eight hours. The heavily loss-making fund relies on a monthly subsidy from the budget to be able to cover its obligations. "I went to the ATM in the morning before going to the supermarket but the money wasn't there ... I went back at eight in the evening feeling quite anxious, but it had arrived," said Socrates Kambitoglou, a retired civil engineer. Dimitris Stratoulis, deputy minister for social security, said a technical problem with the interbank payment system had caused the delay. Payments were made normally on Wednesday, said a senior Greek banker. But an official with knowledge of the government's cash position denied there had been a technical hitch. He said the payments were held up because the state pension funds "were still missing several hundred million euros on Tuesday morning". Another official said in- flows of €500m on Wednesday had eased the situation and €300m was due to be paid on Thursday. "We're probably going to make it this month," he said. Meanwhile, talks with the EU and International Monetary Fund have resumed in Brussels with a fresh team of Greek negotiators, led by Euclid Tsakalotos, deputy oreign minister for economic affairs, after Yanis Varoufakis, the outspoken finance minister, was sidelined earlier this week. The SYRIZA government is facing resistance to its plans to tackle the country's massive debt burden Greece has relied on its own funding resources since last August due to a prolonged stand-off with creditors over structural reforms, including further cuts in pensions, increases in value added tax and fully liberalising labour markets. The liquidity squeeze has become especially acute this month because of shrinking cash reserves and a sharp decline in tax revenues, according to a finance ministry official. Trying to address the cash crunch, the government last week ordered 1,500 state entities, including local authorities, hospitals and universities, to hand over their cash reserves to the central bank to be deposited in short-term ‘repos’ - repurchase agreements. But foot-dragging by some entities reluctant to lose control of their funds, among them local authorities run by mayors from opposition political parties, has meant that transfers have been delayed. Funds have so far been transferred by only one of the country's 13 regional governors, amid concerns over whether the central government would be in a position to return them. Costas Bakoyannis, governor of central Greece, said more time was needed to clarify the measures and arrange the transfers without endangering payments to contractors and suppliers. "It's agreed the money will be handed over, based on the government's commitment that it's a temporary measure," said Mr Bakoyannis. Meanwhile, the state-controlled electricity utility PPC, which is listed on the Athens stock exchange, denied reports that it had been asked to help make up the shortfall. One person familiar with the issue said the government wanted to tap €200m of funds earmarked as a downpayment on a new €1.5bn power plant to be constructed in northern Greece.
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