Divided Cyprus elects first Turkish Cypriot to European Parliament

A Turkish Cypriot won a seat in the European Parliament after he was chosen by voters from both sides of the divided Mediterranean island, Greek newspaper Kathimerini said on its website on Monday.

Niyazi Kızılyürek, an academic working for the University of Cyprus in the Greek Cypriot south of the island, became the first Turkish Cypriot to be elected to the European Parliament since the island joined the 28-member bloc in 2004.

Analysts said Kızılyürek’s election could prove historically significant for intercommunal relations on the ethnically divided island, according to Kathimerini.

Kızılyürek, who was among six successful candidates for MEP, belongs to the communist-rooted AKEL party. AKEL finished second behind the conservative Democratic Rally party in terms of seats won in the European Parliament by political groups from Cyprus.

The newly elected academic said he would represent Cyprus and its European citizens, irrespective of ethnic origin, said Kathimerini.

The island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 into predominantly Greek Cypriot south, whose government is internationally recognised, and the Turkish Cypriot north, whose sovereignty is only recognised by Ankara.

The vote comes at a time of increasing tensions between Cyprus, Greece and Turkey over drilling rights in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean near Cyprus.