Cyprus: Reversing the Drift to Partition

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The UN and EU should strongly encourage Greek and Turkish Cypriots to make “one more major effort” to reunify Cyprus in 2008, argues a new report from the International Crisis Group (ICG).

For Greek Cypriots, reunification would end insecurity, give them access to the Turkish economy, and increase their value as an eastern Mediterranean hub, the 10 January report argues. Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriots would be able to enjoy the advantages of EU citizenship and the EU itself would benefit from an end to the uncertainty, it adds. 

If this final effort fails, “the alternative is likely to be partition” as the status quo cannot be preserved indefinitely, claims the ICG report, calling for all sides to “focus much more sharply that they have done on the downsides of this”. 

The ICG insist that any comprehensive reunification settlement needs to be based on the “bi-zonal and bi-communal principles” of previous, UN-led efforts, and highlight the period following the Greek Cypriots’ presidential election, set for February 2008, as an opportunity to re-establish “meaningful negotiations” between the two communities. 

The report makes a number of recommendations to be followed by the parties concerned in order to reach a successful outcome, including: 

  • Greek and Turkish Cypriots should meet soon after the election to signal to the UN a real commitment to start talks. 
  • Both sides should take unilateral confidence-building measures. For example, Greek Cypriots should allow Turkish Cypriot products to be sold directly to the EU, and the Turkish Cypriots should freeze construction on Greek-Cypriot owned real estate. 
  • The UN should send a senior figure to conduct its mission in Cyprus and establish a framework for face-to-face talks between leaders on both sides. 
  • Turkey should unilaterally open its seaports and airports to Greek Cypriot traffic and its civilian and military leaders should firmly commit to reunification. 
  • Greece, working with the US and other European nations, should explain the dangers of non-resolution of the Cyprus issue to the wider EU. 

Taken together, these measures would “create an atmosphere in which negotiations would have a realistic chance of succeeding”, concludes the ICG report. 

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