Greek Cypriot leader spots crucial progress in Cyprus talks

Greek Cypriot leader says peace talks between Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders make significant progress on important issues of divided island, though more work is needed ahead of final comprehensive plan

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades addresses lawmakers at the Greek Cypriot parliament in Nicosia, Cyprus on Feb. 11, 2016.

Peace talks in the divided island, Cyprus, have shown progress on several fronts, but disagreements continue and work is still needed before a blueprint can be put up for a public vote, the Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades said on Thursday.

On-off peace talks between estranged Greek and Turkish Cypriots have shown promises, since the election of a moderate Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci, in early 2015.

"In spite of the remarkable progress achieved, time is needed before presenting a comprehensive solution to the people," Anastasiades told Greek Cypriot Parliament.

Specifying for the first time, where progress had been made, Anastasiades said that the two sides reached a "common understanding" on certain elements of power sharing, how to handle property claims from people displaced in past violence and how the legislature and judiciary of the future union would work.

Since 1974, the island has been divided into two spheres of government, the south being governed by the Greek Cypriot government and the north being governed by the Turkish Cypriots.

In July 1974, the Turkish government’s militarily intervened the northern part of the island with the intention of protecting the Turkish population, after a short-lived Greek-orchestrated coup on the island aimed at the union with Greece (a concept known in Greek as Enosis).

The island became independent in 1960, as the Republic of Cyprus and three countries Turkey, Greece, and Britain, were made its guarantor states, according to the Zurich and London Agreements.

Having a diverse population of both Greeks and Turks, following the establishment of the Republic many disagreements emerged between the ethnic groups on the island which failed to resolve their differences.

A reunification deal in Cyprus is "more than possible" though some complex questions still need to be addressed, the UN envoy on Cyprus Espen Barth Eide declared in mid-January.

However, any agreement must be approved by the two communities in separate referendums.

The last major effort to break the deadlock and settle the Cyprus dispute was the Annan Plan, the UN proposal for the federation and consequent accession of a united Cyprus to the EU in 2004, initiated by then Secretary General Kofi Annan.

At the time, while the Turkish Cypriots approved the plan, the Greek Cypriots rejected it overwhelmingly and entered the EU alone. As a result the Greek Cypriot south represents the whole island in the EU which has since been protested by Turkey.

The blueprint "should have no ambiguities," Anastasiades, who attends peace talks in his capacity as leader of the Greek Cypriot community, told lawmakers in a rare appearance in parliament.

Territorial trade-offs have not yet been negotiated, and there were disagreements on a rotating presidency sought by the Turkish Cypriot side, he said.

The earlier UN blueprint, which Anastasiades had supported as an opposition leader, had called for rotating terms in a presidential council.

The Cyprus conflict reverberates beyond its small borders as a source of tension between NATO allies Greece and Turkey. It is also an obstacle to Turkey's joining the EU, since Greek Cypriots have veto rights over Ankara.

In principle, the Cypriot sides agree to a loose two-state federation, but talks over the years have repeatedly foundered on the evolution of that union, ownership rights, territorial adjustments and security issues.

Turkey has kept thousands of troops stationed in northern Cyprus, following its military intervention in 1974, which the Greek Cypriots insist should be withdrawn.

"Everyone - Greek and Turkish Cypriots - should understand that the solution sought must be the outcome of a dignified compromise ... and will not allow the imposition of the majority on the minority, or vice versa," Anastasiades said.

Choosing his words carefully, Anastasiades avoided speaking of "convergences" in talks - a phrase which could be construed as the basis for an interim agreement on sectoral issues that are, however, deeply intertwined.

"Nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed," he added.

TRTWorld, Reuters