Amid ongoing peace talks between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots on the divided island of Cyprus, the leaders of the two communities have announced progress in solving territorial disputes after meeting with each other on Monday.
Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot negotiators have been meeting since peace talks between the eastern Mediterranean island’s two main communities were revived on May 15 following Mustafa Akinci’s election as president of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in April.
After holding talks in the UN-controlled buffer zone in the eastern Mediterranean island’s divided capital city Nicosia, along with the UN envoy, Espen Barth Eide, it was announced that those who were forced out of their homes after the division of the island in 1974 would be given the choice of being compensated, exchanging their properties or having their property reinstated.
Cyprus was divided in July 1974, when guarantor state Turkey conducted a military intervention on the island to secure the island’s north as a safe haven for the Turkish Cypriot community in response to a coup instigated by the military junta ruling Greece at the time.
Many Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots lost their homes during a population exchange following the end of the war, with Greek Cypriots in the north migrating south of the UN-controlled ceasefire line and Turkish Cypriots in the south moving to the north.
Since 1974, Turkey has maintained a military presence in the island’s breakaway north - which declared independence in 1983 - with decades of on-again-off-again negotiations failing to bring about a lasting agreement.
However, talks recently resumed following a tense seven-month stalemate - which began in October 2014 when the Greek Cypriot side withdrew from talks after a disagreement with the Turkish Cypriot side over offshore hydrocarbon exploration in the island’s exclusive economic zone - and have been progressing steadily, leaving both sides hopeful for a prompt solution.
“Regarding property, the leaders agreed that the individual right to property will be respected,” UN envoy Eide told reporters after the meeting.
“Dispossessed owners and current users shall have various choices regarding their claims over affected properties,” he added. “There shall be a list of categories of affected properties. There shall be an independent property commission mandated to resolve property claims based on mutually agreed criteria.”
“The property commission shall comprise of equal number of Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot members.”
While Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades said Eide’s statement "speaks for itself," his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Mustafa Akinci expressed optimism that a solution could be reached by the end of the year.
Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot negotiators are due to meet with representatives from the Working Groups on European Union Matters, Property and the Economy in the coming days to “effectively guide” their work, the UN envoy said.
Since the revival of talks - which aim to reunite the island within the framework of a UN-backed bi-zonal, bi-communal federation - both Akinci and Anastasiades have been meeting frequently to discuss a number of issues that need to be resolved before a reunification of the island can take place.
Akinci and Anastasiades are also scheduled to come together with Eide on Sept. 1 and Sept. 14 as part of their ongoing talks aimed at undoing over four decades of division on the island.