Breakaway Cypriot Government Collapses

The shaky coalition governing Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus (search) resigned Wednesday after months of confusion in the minority government following a failed referendum to reunite the divided island.

Mehmet Ali Talat (search), who serves as prime minister in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state, submitted his resignation to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash (search), nine months after taking office. Talat, who is extremely popular for his efforts to reunite the island, is expected to remain as premier until a new government can be formed.

"Today, we have relayed our resignation letter," Talat told a news conference. Denktash will meet with party leaders in the coming days to discuss the possibility of forming a new government. If a government cannot be formed, early elections will be called.

"If we can't succeed in forming a new government our people will decide" in new elections, Talat said. "We will carry out responsibilities fully until a new government is formed."

In April, several lawmakers resigned from the two parties in the coalition following a failed referendum on a United Nations plan to reunite the divided island, reducing it to a minority government.

Talat supported the plan, but his coalition partner, Serdar Denktash, did not. Serdar Denktash said if efforts to form a new government fail, then elections could be held in early 2005.

Both Talat and Serdar Denktash refused to comment on future coalitions to form a new government.

Turkish Cypriots in the north of the island overwhelmingly voted in favor of the U.N.-drafted plan, but it was defeated when Greek Cypriots in the south rejected it.

That outcome has meant that Turkish Cypriots in a breakaway state in the north have been excluded from the benefits of the European Union, which Cyprus joined on May 1.

Cyprus has been split into Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish-occupied north since Turkey invaded in 1974 after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. In 1983 the Turkish Cypriots declared their own state, but it is only recognized by Turkey.