Who Hinders the Reunification of Cyprus?

The high level summit in Geneva on Cyprus issue is already over and on January 18 contacts on the level of deputy Ministers on security issues will continue.

After two-day negotiations between the leaders of the Republic of Cyprus and unrecognized Republic of the Turkish Cyprus, a summit was held in Cyprus, which, besides the conflicting sides was also attended by the representatives of the three guarantor countries – Foreign Ministers of Great Britain, Turkey and Greece, as well as representatives of the UN and the EU. No agreement was reached and the sides decided to continue the negotiations.

Negotiations over the unification of Cyprus island have restarted in 2014, with the joint declaration of the leaders of the two sides of the island, with which they agreed on the reunification of the island creating a bi-communal country. The restart of the negotiations is greatly conditioned by the will of the leaders of the two parts. Both the President of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Anastasiadis and the leader of Northern Cyprus Mustafa Akinji have always been in favor of the reunification of the island and the formation of bi-communal state. Besides, Turkey now also tends to be constructive taking into consideration the fact that given quite difficult relations with the EU it needs to have positive developments on the issue and after the reunification of the island to increase the number of its supporters in the EU. Greece, in its turn, is interested in the reunification of the island, at the same time it does not want to let an increase of the Turkish influence or its presence in the island.

At the same time on certain issues Turkey is not ready to compromise and insists on the need of its military presence (even with small number) on the island, which makes difficulties in reaching an agreement. This, most probably, at the current stage of the negotiations is the most difficult issue, over which Greece is not ready to compromise.

This “fake constructive approach” Turkey has also shown in the statement made after the January 12 negotiations in Geneva. “We do not want to see any bad intention in the non-readiness of the Greek side and its request to postpone the date of the talks. They said that they are not ready and would like to discuss everything among themselves once again. We agree to appoint a new date, but not the one that the Greek side wanted. We considered it to be too late and suggested an earlier date,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

The Foreign Ministry of Greece in its turn declared: “In our turn we, of course, want the Turkish army to leave the island and that there is no foreign interference.”

Thus Turkey, trying to seem constructive and a supporter of quick settlement of the conflict tries to “blame” Greece for prolongation of the negotiations at the same time adopting quite a tough stance on the withdrawal of its troops.  

It should be mentioned that besides the issue of the Turkish troops, the main topics also discussed during this stage were the clarification of the borders between the two communities, the return of the refugees and their security guarantees.

During the January 12 summit it was decided to create a working group, which will identify the main problematic issues and the tools for their settlement. The group will develop its proposals, which will be discussed during the next summit.

Besides, the leaders of the Turkish and Greek sides have presented their maps of the borders of bi-communal state, which were handed to the UN experts and still need to be agreed. The main argument is on the administrative division of unified Cyprus, more precisely, on the control of 1 percent territory. The Turkish side claims that its part of the unified Turkey should occupy 29.2 percent, but the Greek Cypriots say that only 28.2 percent territory should be given to the Turkish side.

Both the sides and the mediators have great expectations from this stage. The UN Secretary General has declared: “I am sure that all parties are determined to fulfill this last effort for the settlement of this long-lasting conflict. The settlement of conflict will inspire great hopes.”

However, despite the great efforts and the enthusiasm, there is a tendency to move again to a stage of log-lasting discussions and the formation of the working group is one of this signs. Cyprus and Greece are not willing to make big concessions, Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots are seeking to have clear agreements and fixed guarantees. In addition, the recent developments have created some skepticism towards Turkey in Europe, which, in turn, increases the Greek’s caution.

Anna Karapetyan

On the webpage of NGO “European Integration” hereafter you can read analyses and comments on current political developments by the experts of “Insight” Analytical Center for Applied Policy and Research within the “European Integration” NGO.