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Current Political State and Reunification Prospects For Cyprus

Aug 13, 2008
As it stands the Greek side of the island is a member of the United Nations and European Union whilst the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) is officially unrecognised across the world since its establishment in 1974 when Turkey invaded Cyprus to put an end to a Greek military coup which was endangering many Turkish Cypriot lives.

The latest political development for Cyprus is the announcement from North Cyprus President Mehmet Ali Talat and his Greek counterpart Demetris Christofias that fully fledged peace talks will begin on September 3rd this year. The Presidents met on Friday 25th July to agree on a date to start peace talks. In their third meeting with United Nations involvement since Christofias took over power of the South, it was agreed that once plans for reunification are reached simultaneous referendums will take place on both sides of the island to allow Turkish and Greek Cypriots to vote separately.

A joint statement said "the aim of the fully fledged negotiations is to find a mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus problem, which will safeguard the fundamental and legitimate rights and interests of the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots".

In addition the leaders revealed a series of 'confidence-boosting measures' aimed at smoothing the peace process and gave instructions for their immediate and full implementation. These include:

- Cooperation to prevent illegal dumping and the rehabilitation of areas within the UN buffer zone (a 300km stretch of deserted land that runs along the border through the main city of Nicosia as well as other towns such as Famagusta).
- Exchange of experience and information between environmental experts.
- Working together to prevent wildfires.
- Waste management, treatment and recycling.
- Awareness raising measures for water saving.
- A common approach on mining and quarrying.
- Agreement on biodiversity and nature protection.
- Marine and maritime pollution management and control.
- Asbestos pollution management and control.
- Historical pollution management and control.
- Compilation of a lost of immovable cultural heritage in Cyprus.
- A decision on two pilot restoration projects.
- Guidelines for an interactive educational computer programme.
- Cooperation in a crisis situation.
- Exchanging information and intelligence on crime and criminal matters.

However, despite this meeting there still remains a conflict between the two leaders about the outcome of the reunification process. It is said that the North side, the TRNC, favour a "virgin birth"; the creation of a new Cyprus whilst the Greek Cypriot community would prefer a revival of the old Republic of Cyprus with full Turkish Cypriot involvement.

Ahead of Friday's meeting Greek Cypriot President Christofias outlined his hopes for the island to include one sovereignty with rotating presidency, one citizenship, one economy and one "international personality" while the two communities would have political equality. However, he also added that a president from the Greek Cypriot community would hold the office for a longer period, while the vice-president would come from the other community, somewhat contradicting his previous statement.

Despite President Talat remaining silent as yet, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a public show of faith towards the TRNC President. He said he believes a solution will come by the end of this year and "Turkey will continue to support the constructive approach of Talat".

A second recent development is the fight for the Maraş/Verosha area of Famagusta. A report by the European Parliament calling for the Turkish army to quit the area and allow Greek 'refugees' to return was released last week. In 1974 37,000 Greeks fled the city, which was at the time one of the most prosperous on the island. Since the invasion, the area, named Maraş by the Turkish and Verosha by the Greeks has remained untouched and has become a ghost town, cut off and guarded by Turkish military blockades and signs.

The Greek Cypriot community see the Turkish army as 'invaders' and the TRNC itself as an occupation of the northern part of their island by Turkey. A petition by the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament backs the report with 26,000 Greek signatures.

The report states that as a candidate country Turkey is under obligation to respect fundamental principles of the EU; respect for civil liberties and property rights. The Famagusta Refugee Council (FRC) believes that Greek ownership would allow communities to peacefully co-exist and co-operate developing ties of economic independence. The area used to be very attractive to tourists and could offer key opportunities to developers if opened up.

In summary, despite conflicts in their leaders' hopes for the future in reality neither the Greek nor the Turkish Cypriot communities display any animosity towards one another. Crossing the border is a hassle-free process for both communities as well as EU citizens, in which one simply shows their passport and has it stamped. The only restrictions are for non-EU citizens who try to cross from the north to the south of the border.
About the Author
Chloe Leighton is the Overseas Property Investment specialist for the Whiterocks resort.
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