European Parliament President, Martin Schulz, has announced he is still optimistic about the ongoing reunification talks for the future of Cyprus, despite some problems.
After a meeting with Yiannakis Omirou, president of the Greek Cypriot House of Representatives, Schulz told journalists in a news conference that "We are looking with quite big optimism to the ongoing negotiations on the island between the two sides."
"We believe in the unification of Cyprus in the times in which we are living and the problems we are facing are a signal of hope not only for the country but the European union as a whole," Schulz added.
The Cyprus issue is one of the main obstacles on Turkey’s EU accession plans. The number of chapters, including energy issue and judicial rights, are blocked by the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus.
Schulz said that there are still differences that need to be resolved between the Turkish and Greek communities on the separated island.
"Not everything is done for the time being, not everything is agreed and achieved," Schulz said. "We have problems, but I think there is hope and therefore I gave the guarantee to [Omirou] that the European Union is available to do whatever is needed."
The Greek Cypriot south is recognised internationally and has been an EU member since 2004, while the Turkish Cypriot north is only recognised by Turkey.
Hopes have grown for a peace deal for a reunification, since the leftist moderate leader Mustafa Akinci and his Greek counterpart Nicos Anastasiades resumed UN-brokered negotiations last May, with the meetings “happening with increasing frequency" in recent months.
The Mediterranean island 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. This was in response to a coup by the Greek junta, which sought to unite Cyprus with Greece.
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.
Failed attempts to re-establish a Republic of Cyprus that would be inclusive of Turkish Cypriots failed. In 1983, Turkish Cypriots declared 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 the 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.