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Europe

Cyprus talks unlikely to result in reunification

media Nicos Anastasiades REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Peace talks on Cyprus started Monday in Geneva. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have negotiated for more than 18 months in the run-up to these talks.

Cyprus was invaded by Turkey after a coupe backed by Athens in 1974. The island has remained divided ever since and is one of the world’s longest running disputes.

Coming together?

On the eve of these talks, in Nicosia, there were gatherings of people in support of unity, and there was music - The Beatles’ song 'Come Together'.

And if it is up to the two leaders of the communities, there could be a solid agreement at the end of this week. But they are only ones involved.

“There was a big hype talking about how this was going to be the final round that would conclude the talks,” says Ayla Gurel, a researcher with the Prio Cyprus Center, a think tank.

There were rumors that “the issues that separate [Cyprus] have been discussed and were going to be finalized. That was the plan which in my view was unrealistic.

“The idea was that there would be more progress and the in the first three days the meeting in Geneva, the leaders and the teams were going to just simply wrap up and in the final day discuss territorial issues and then move on to the final un-talked about problem of security,” she says.

The current status quowas created in 1960 when Britain gave up its colonial claims to the island.

London signed a treaty with Greece and Turkey that were representing the Greek and Turkish communities in the South and the North of the island respectively.

The Guarantor clause

These three nations became the so-called Guarantor countries.

“The international actors at the time decided it was better to set this up in Cyprus than to make Cyprus an independent state,” says Gurel, “governed jointly by the two communities, and with the three countries Britain, Greece and Turkey together guaranteeing the security, law and order, the constitutional order, and territorial integrity of the island, against its own people.

Another clause of the treaty stipulated that a political union with Greece was forbidden, as was a formal partition of the island.

But in the years after Cypriot independence, there wasa great deal of violence between the Greek and Turkish parts of the island. The island risked civil war.

In 1974, Greece, then ruled by a regime of colonels, staged a coup in Cyprus aimed at incorporating the island in its territory.

As a result, Turkey invoked the Guarantor treaty, saying that law and order acorss the the island was in danger. Turkey invaded the north of the island and has been there ever since.

In 2004, the so-called Annan-plan, called after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, came closest to ending the conflict, but it was rejected by a referendum where the Greek cypriots voted against, while the Turkish north was in favor.

Security problems

In the upcoming talks the security situation is the main bottleneck, says Gurel. “The two sides are diametrically opposed, and Greece and Turkey are also diametrically opposed about the status of the Guarantees. The Greek side wants them to be abolished, and the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey are opposed to this.

"There is no compromise solution. There have been certain suggestions, but there is no agreement, as to what kind of compromise could be found at this stage.”

Meanwhile, the Cyprus issue is also a bottleneck in the EU accession negotiations of Turkey. But a possible solution, even though unlikely at this point in time, won’t help Turkey’s situation much.

“Turkey is on bad terms now with the EU,” says Nicos Trimikliniotis, a law professor with the University of Cyprus.

“The resolution of the Cyprus problem would certainly mean one obstacle less in terms of its accession negotiations. It is occupying half of an EU country, and it is an obstacle. If this were resolved, it would certainly facilitate an improved relation with the EU.

“But the possibility of Turkey joining the EU is another issue that has to do with economic aspects, the relationship with Turkey on human rights issues, and geopolitical issues in the region, those obstacles cannot be resolved by solving the Cyprus problem,” he says.

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