NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades on Saturday declared his bid for a second five-year term that he said will be his last and will be underpinned by the "paramount goal" of reunifying the ethnically divided island nation.
The 71-year old Anastasiades announced his candidacy during a rally where he outlined the achievements of his first term. That included bringing the economy back on a growth trajectory after a 2013 economic crisis that brought Cyprus to the brink of bankruptcy and required a multibillion rescue deal from the Mediterranean island's Eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund.
Anastasiades pledged to renew efforts to reunify Cyprus after peace talks with breakaway Turkish Cypriots collapsed in July amid "bitterness and disappointment."
He has told U.N. Chief Antonio Guterres that he's ready to re-engage in U.N.-mediated negotiations to reach an accord ending the island's split, which happened in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
"Cyprus' reunification remains my primary goal," he told supporters.
His challengers include Nicholas Papadopoulos from the center-right DIKO party, former foreign minister Giorgos Lillikas and Stavros Malas, who is backed by the communist-rooted AKEL party.
The first-round of the vote is Jan. 28, with an expected runoff on Feb. 4 between the top two vote-getters.
Although all the main challengers have attacked Anastasiades' economic record as insufficient, Papadopoulos and Lillikas have been particularly critical for what they said are too many concessions in peace talks with Turkish Cypriots. Malas says Anastasiades failed to take advantage of an opportunity to reach a peace accord in July.