NICOSIA, April 5, 2016 (AFP) – The prime minister of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state submitted the resignation of his government on Tuesday after his ruling coalition collapsed at a time of high hopes for reunifying the Mediterranean island.
Mustafa Akinci, the president of the unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), urged the swift formation of a new government to support his talks with Greek Cypriot leaders on ending the island’s decades-old division.
“It is important to resolve internal problems, but also for the discussions we are having,” Akinci said after receiving the resignation of Prime Minister Omer Kalyoncu.
Both Akinci and his Greek Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades, the island’s internationally recognised president, have expressed hope they can reach a deal this year after 11 months of promising UN-backed talks.
The TRNC government, which is recognised only by Turkey, collapsed after ministers from the right-wing National Unity Party (UBP) withdrew in a dispute over economic policy.
Their resignations left Kalyoncu’s centre-left Republican Turkish Party (CTP) without a majority in parliament and ended the first grand coalition between the two largest parties since the formation of the TRNC in 1983.
UBP chairman Huseyin Ozgurgun said his party did not accept a decision to pay civil servants’ salaries in instalments and was also unhappy with water distribution in the breakaway north of the island.
The TRNC government is still heavily dependent on aid from Turkey to stay afloat and was unable to pay public sector staff their wages in March.
Akinci heads the dovish Communal Democracy Party (TDP) and defeated the UBP candidate in a presidential election runoff in April last year with support from the CTP.
The TRNC has a presidential system and his talks with Anastasiades will continue while the search for a new governing coalition goes on.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the island’s northern third in response to an Athens-engineered Greek Cypriot coup seeking union with Greece.
In 2004, Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of a UN-brokered reunification plan but it was overwhelmingly rejected by Greek Cypriots and Cyprus joined the European Union still a divided island.
Despite repeated promises from European leaders, Turkish Cypriots remain denied most of the benefits of EU membership.