NICOSIA (Reuters) - Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said on Monday he would not seek re-election next year, citing a deadlock in talks to reunify the ethnically split island as his main reason for stepping down.
“Taking as a fact that the Cyprus problem has not been solved and there does not appear to be definitive progress in the next few months ... I will not seek re-election as president of the Republic of Cyprus,” Christofias said in a state address.
Christofias, a communist elected for a five year term in 2008, represents the Greek Cypriot side in reunification talks with Turkish Cypriots. Before his election he said he would be a one-term president, unless a solution to the island’s decades-old conflict was in sight.
“I am honoring a pledge I made before my election,” Christofias said. “The situation in negotiations today is unfortunately not encouraging.”
Cyprus was split in a Turkish invasion in 1974 after a brief Greek inspired coup. Fresh reunification talks between the two sides were launched after Christofias’ election in 2008, but have failed to break a rigid impasse in place for decades.
The United Nations, which oversees negotiations, recently said it would not host further meetings between Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu unless there were signs they could make clear progress on issues holding up a breakthrough.
The conflict is harming Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. Cyprus has been an EU member since 2004, and will assume the bloc’s rotating presidency on July 1.
Greek and Turkish Cypriots agree on paper to reunite the island as a federation, but differ on how it could work. Important differences remain over how Cyprus will be co-governed as well as settling property claims from thousands of internally displaced people.
Christofias’s popularity has plummeted in opinion polls since a munitions explosion last year which destroyed Cyprus’s largest power station. The disaster took the island to the brink of seeking a bailout from its EU partners. Cyprus has been lowered to junk by two of the world’s three credit ratings agencies due to the exposure of its banks to Greece.
Reporting by Michele Kambas; Editing by Rosalind Russell