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Positive Attitudes Set Cyprian Reunification Talks in Good Stead

Sep 15, 2008
After thirty years of failed peace talks, intensive discussions began again yesterday (3rd September '08), between the Greek and Turkish, Cyprian leaders over the reunification of Cyprus to make it once again a united state. Both parties agree on the notion of two-party federation; however it is the details of the governing body which still need to be worked upon.

Due to the inability to reach a settlement in the past, United Nations officials are aware of the difficulties that lie ahead, however feel that both presidents are united in a common goal. Alexander Downer, the former Australian foreign minister who is the UN's new special adviser to the talks, felt "a degree of optimism because I know the leadership is committed to a successful negotiation process. But I have no illusions on how difficult this is".

Mehmet Ali Talat, the Turkish Cypriot leader is positive, believing that the framework of the agreement could be drawn up by the end of 2008, however Demetris Christofias, the Greek Cypriot president has to deal with challenges from staunch nationalists opposed to a settlement, and is less optimistic, avoiding naming a deadline for the agreement.

In 2004 the Greek Cypriots rejected an UN-sponsored peace plan in a landside referendum which prevented the poorer Turkish Cypriot community from joining the EU, despite supporting the plan in a separate vote. It seems that their attitudes have changed significantly since then. Christofias has gained a lot of support since last February when he won the presidential election off the back of his wish to form a settlement. Opinion polls show that approximately 70 per cent of Greek Cypriots approve of Christofias' handling of the situation. "There's been a shift in opinion, with Greek Cypriots coming to realise that the costs of not getting a solution are higher than the benefits," Philip Savvides, an Athens-based analyst.

Christofias, has the official support of the rightwing Democratic Rally under Nikos Anastasiades, unlike the communists who Christofias represents, they have always backed the peace deal; however more than 60 per cent of Greek Cypriot voters are loyal to one of these two parties, so provided a new peace plan addresses issues such as security, property and territory it should be successful.

Unlike his predecessors Christofias is realistic about the reunification talks, accepting that the Greek Cypriots will have to make concessions over territory, property and accept that settlers from mainland Turkey have permanent Cyprus residence, if they wish to achieve an agreement. As they have been members of the EU for four years, and last January entered Eurozone, the Greek Cypriot party no longer has high concerns about security. However reaching an agreement about the removal of the 30,000 Turkish troops in north Cyprus will provide a testing topic.

The Turkish government is also more positive about matters that in previous talks. Wne he visited north Cyprus in July the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, praised Talat's "active and constructive efforts" to re-start direct peace talks. Perhaps this time a positive outcome is not an unlikely possibility, and this would benefit the island greatly, giving Turkish Cypriots access to the full benefits of the EU and increasing the economy - especially the already growing property markets, for both north and south Cyprus.
About the Author
Hannah Walker is a writer for www.whiterocksbafra.com
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