2016 has been a year of highs and lows for the negotiations to reunite Cyprus and Europe more broadly.
A re-united Cyprus would likely make the country an international and regional trading hub, particularly as the Republic has one of the world’s largest registered shipping fleets, extensive financial and business networks, possesses major oil and gas deposits off shore and is rapidly developing technology and tourist sectors capable of surviving in the toughest markets. It would also offer a beacon of hope for both Christians and Muslims alike to live peacefully together in a part of the world which has become unaccustomed to such a reality.
Over the course of this year, President Anastasiades and Mr Akinci have continued their negotiations to reunite Cyprus and its people. This year’s negotiations culminated in an agreement to meet in Geneva in January 2017 where the composition of each constituent state will be agreed by President Anastasiades and Mr Akinci from 9 to 11 of January. On 12 January, an international conference will be held that will include the Guarantor powers and other international parties to discuss the issue of security and guarantees.
There has been progress on key chapters of the Cyprus issue, in 2016 that have given us renewed hope to be cautiously optimistic that 42 years of Turkish occupation might be coming to an end soon. However we have also seen interventions from Turkey that remind us that a solution is very much dependent on the will of Turkey. Statements over the last two months from President Erdogan about which cities will and won’t be returned in any solution and Turkey’s Foreign Minister about the need for guarantees, undermine the climate of confidence necessary to negotiate a solution. A re-united Cyprus where Greek and Turkish Cypriots could peacefully live and prosper is both attainable and viable – let’s hope 2017 is the year in which that becomes a reality. However, this will only happen if Turkey refrains from interventions that undermine the negotiations and demonstrates the necessary political will to remove its troops from the island, drops its outdated guarantor demands and returns the occupied territory to its rightful owners.
2016 has also been a transformative year with the EU referendum in the UK and the surprise decision to leave the EU. The National Federation of Cypriots (UK) openly campaigned for a “Remain” vote and the community responded. In the areas where Cypriots live, there was both a high turnout and a high remain vote. However, the result of the referendum must be respected. Britain’s exit from the EU will certainly be a loss to Cyprus given their many shared positions in the EU, especially on economic and financial issues. The task now for all of us, is to work towards a Brexit that is a win-win for Britain and Europe.
As December comes to a close, it is time to look forward to 2017. Let us hope that next year, we see a change in Turkey’s policy on Cyprus that finally enables a solution to be reached.
For more information on the National Federation of Cypriots in The UK, you can contact them via their website.