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Talks Begin in Cyprus

Sep 15, 2008
Yesterday saw a historic day for the divided island of Cyprus. During the last 34 years the island has been split into what effectively count as two separate nations: Cyprus, and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Under the last Greek Cypriot leader, T. Papadopoulos, the impetuous for reunification stalled. When the Annan plan was rejected, in 2004, by referendum - a referendum which saw Turkish Cypriots support and Greek Cypriots reject the plan - there were fears that the pessimism and lack of progress which have long defined attitudes on both sides of the Green Line had returned for good.

When the moderate, left-wing Demetris Christofias was voted into power this February the world was reminded that long entrenched obstacles, and issues thought to be irresolvable, are often given that appearance of permanency only within a transitory political climate. In the case of Papadopoulos, his anti-reunification stance made it difficult to be optimistic over the issues that are now being discussed in Cyprus. Christofias, who has made public the fact that his primary objective as President is reunification of the island, has both an ideological and personal connection with his counterpart, Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.

The current round of talks - which began yesterday at a compound close to the last divided capital city in Europe, Nicosia - are being seen by commentators as providing the best chance yet of bringing reunification to the island. It is not just the personal ideologies and aspirations of the two moderate, left-leaning leaders that is motoring the drive towards a lasting settlement being made, but also the broader political climate, and especially Turkey's relationship to the EU.

Turkey, which made a promise in 2005 to open its air and sea ports to Cypriot traffic, has been engaged with the EU on the Cyprus problem for the last couple of years, and their membership is, to a large degree, resting upon their response to the current round of negotiations (especially with Cyprus, an EU member now, still possessing their right of veto). EU membership talks had been plodding along at a regular pace until December 2006, when EU ministers decided to slow them down due to the fact that the EU and the country could not reconcile the promises that they had made to one another: the EU to provide aid and end the economic and diplomatic isolation of North Cyprus, and Turkey to open its ports.

The upshot of the talks yesterday seem positive, and reports place both leaders in high spirits immediately following the first day's events. The leaders have agreed to meet again of the 11th of this month, with the hope that they will meet once a week to further flesh out the agenda towards reunification.

The property market in North Cyprus presently represents one of the best opportunities for investment in Europe. Not only is the county blessed with natural beauty - making it an ideal location for people wishing to retire or to buy to let abroad - but property prices in the North are currently far lower than in the South and far, far lower than in other locations on the Med - Spain for example. At the moment, the currency of the North is the New Turkish Lira, though wages and property deals are normally negotiated in Sterling. With the Euro now far less attractive against the pound, purchasing in pounds is far more sensible for a British buyer. When reunification occurs it is more than likely that Turkey will, like all other soon-to-be EU members, try to bolster their current currency so that joining the Euro does not equate to a recessionary pressure on their domestic economy. What this means for an investor is that buying in pounds now is a sure fire way of securing a return when reunification brings the two halves of this divided island back together.
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