“The leaders are showing a lot of courage, a lot of will. It’s going to be difficult but it’s possible. “We are now in the final moment.”
That was a quote from Espen Barth Eide, senior United Nations envoy, with regards to the recommencement of talks between Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci on the future of the divided island of Cyprus. Since 1974, a stalemate has existed between both sides but after a number of failed attempts to unite over the last thirty years, there now appears to be strong commitment on both sides to finally reconcile the island into a possible united federal state. The island was cut in half after a Turkish invasion in 1974 was triggered by a brief Greek inspired coup.
Talks last year broke down before Christmas and it looked as though all was lost but a renewed effort by both parties and the United Nations has resulted in the current round of meetings. Problems still remain however, especially with regards to just how many Turkish military personnel should remain on the island and how the returning of property and land should be handled. A possible procedure of power sharing of the overall Presidency is believed to be one of the issues as well as how the EU will be partnered in a new Federal Cyprus.
The deserted district of Varosha, inside the UN controlled buffer zone.
Before the talks, Greek Cypriot leader, Anastasiades was asked if he was optimistic and said: “Ask me when we are finished” while Turkish Cypriot President, Akinci, stated that “we are not pessimistic, but I see no need for exaggerated expectations that everything will just happen. We are expecting a difficult week.” It is expected that the talks will be extended to have representatives from Britain, Greece and Turkey and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan were believed to have discussed the Cypriot talks already.
Optimism is nervously high and no doubt there will be pressure exerted from some of the parties involved. Britain in particular has been seen as a long entrusted ally of Greek Cyprus and it is expected that whatever the outcome of the talks, the status of the two British military bases on the island will not be changed. The talks are also a chance for Turkey, NATO, Greece and the EU to finally put aside the difficult position they are in with regards to Cyprus. Although it is looking increasingly unlikely that their application will be escalated giving the recent upheavals, Turkey will be happy that one of the major stumbling blocks on their road to EU membership could be removed if the future of Cyprus is finally resolved. Should the talks in Geneva be successful, both parts of the island will have a referendum on unification. In 2004, a referendum on unity was supported by the majority of Turkish Cypriots but rejected by Greek Cypriots.
The current round of talks is open-ended but news is expected around the 12th of January.