The leaders of the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities in Cyprus appeared on television together in a joint season’s greetings message in a positive demonstration of unity, as the two leaders continue to tackle the issues that have divided the island for over four decades.
After wishing all people of Cyprus a happy holiday, with Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades speaking in Turkish and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci speaking in Greek, both leaders expressed their hopes for a solution to the “Cyprus Problem” in 2016.
"I wish the new year will bring lasting peace, serenity and prosperity to all Cypriots," Akinci said in his message, while Anastasiades also underlined his desire to see the island’s two major communities living together peacefully.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops secured the northern part of the island as a safe haven for Turkish Cypriots in the scope of a military intervention in response to a coup by the Greek junta in a bid to unite Cyprus with Greece.
Although Turkey’s intervention was done in accordance with the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee granting Turkey, Greece and Britain guarantor status, allowing them to intervene under such circumstances, the intervention was condemned by the international community.
Failed attempts to re-establish a Republic of Cyprus that would be inclusive of Turkish Cypriots failed, so in 1983, Turkish Cypriots declared the independence of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), but their state did not gain international recognition.
Efforts led by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan came close to reuniting the island in 2004 ahead of the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot administration’s accession to the EU, but this failed when the majority of Greek Cypriots voted against reunification in a referendum conducted on both sides of the island.
However, the discovery of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean in the island’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has breathed new life into talks, with both sides as well as the international community encouraging a solution.
Talks between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots were revived in May following a seven-month pause stemming from disagreements regarding the exploration of hydrocarbons off the island’s shores, and have been progressing ever since.
Akinci and Anastasiades are due to meet again on January 7, 14, and 29 and attend the World Economic Forum in Davos in Switzerland between January 20 to 23.