EU’s Juncker casts optimism over Cyprus peace talks

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker expresses his optimism on solution of Cyprus problem regarding ongoing peace process as he meets with Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders in Nicosia

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The European Union (EU) Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was “optimistic” on the peace talks which aimed to solve long-standing Cyprus issue when he visited the divided island on Thursday.

Juncker met with both the North’s President Mustafa Akinci and the South’s leader Nicos Anastasiades in Nicosia in the UN green line where he verbalised his optimism regarding the peace resolution talks on the decades old political and military dispute.

"After the talks I had with the two leaders I am very optimistic they trust each other… they have a common determination and willingness to conclude to find a solution for a too-old problem," Juncker said after meeting press conference with the leaders.

"This is one of the remaining problems and major conflicts," Juncker added when he referred Turkey’s accession talks with the EU which regards the Cyprus problem as one of the major political obstacles in front of Ankara’s full membership.

Some countries in the EU, most notably Greek Cypriots and France, have blocked Turkey’s negotiation chapters due to the Cyprus problem and 1915 Armenian events, which are not considered as part of the conditionality criterias.

Turkey has long been waiting on the doorstep of the EU to become a full member, but the pre-accession talks only opened on Sept. 5, 2005.

Ankara must fulfill political (Copenhagen) and economic (Maastricht) criterias which are the only measures for a country to become a member in the EU.

The Commission president drew attention to the importance of a peace settlement over the island, saying that a fair resolution would affect positively the entire EU as well as Turkey.

"If this [a solution] happens and I’m praying that this will happen….this will not only be good news for Cyprus, this will be a good news for entire European Union," Juncker said.

The Cyprus issue has long been occupying the agenda of Turkish-Greek and Turkish-EU relations since the Turkish intervention of 1974, which soured relations among the parties until the peace efforts have been accelerated at the very beginning of the new millennium.

The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided between the Greek Cypriots in the south and the Turkish Cypriots in the north since 1974, when Turkey sent its troops to the island in the aftermath of a Greek-backed coup that attempted at uniting the island with Greece.

The Turkish Cypriots declared independence in 1983 under the name of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), but this move was only recognised officially by Ankara while Libya de facto recognised the country.

The UN-brokered peace initiative in 2004, dubbed the “Annan Plan” proposed under the auspices of former secretary general Kofi Annan almost brought about the reunification of the island.

But, the Greek Cypriots opposed the plan with only 24 percent supporting reunification in the referendum, whereas the Turkish Cypriots supported the proposal plan with 65 percent.  

Soon after the refusal of the Annan Plan, the Greek Cypriots became a full member in the EU during the “big bang” enlargement in May 2004.

The peace talks were suspended last October, after the Greek Cypriots cancelled their participation after a row with Turkey over offshore hydrocarbon exploration.

The Greek side discovered gas offshore in late 2011, but Turkey disputed its rights to the area and dispatched an exploration vessel to carry out seismic research in the Greek Cypriot-claimed waters at the end of the last year.

When he was elected in April, Akinci pledged that he would resume peace talks with his counterpart Anastasiadis in order to reunify the island after a two-year and a half years of hiatus since February 2013.

TRTWorld and agencies