The Cyprus dispute is a noteworthy problem that must be resolved in 2017.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north side of the island. To this day, the northern third of Cyprus is occupied by the Turkish military and is under the administration of the self-declared ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’, which is recognized as a sovereign state solely by Turkey.
The rest of the island is internationally recognized as a country called the Republic of Cyprus (inhabited by Greek Cypriots). Between the two, a buffer zone is maintained by the United Nations to avoid any further tensions.
The Cyprus dispute is of particular importance, as its international complications stretch far beyond the boundaries of the island of Cyprus itself, and involve the guarantor powers under the Zurich and London agreement (Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom), the UN and the EU. The dispute is also the main source of conflict between Greece and Turkey, bringing the two countries close to war in the past. The Cypriot issue is also a critical point for Turkey’s attempt to join the EU.
A reunification would provide a rare good news story for a Europe that has grown accustomed to bad news, with events like terrorist attacks, political tensions, and the refugee crisis.
Despite the considerable obstacles, the reunification is closest than ever.
Lately, there have been extensive discussions for a reunification, aiming at the creation of a federation of two states, one Greek-speaking, and the other Turkish-speaking. However, there are major obstacles that the two negotiating sides have to face.
- Security is the first: currently, there are 30,000 Turkish troops in the north, which are undesired by Greek Cypriots. Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, has recently stated that he is not willing to remove his forces unless all of the Greek soldiers abandon the island as well.
- Another issue is whether Greek Cypriots forced to leave the northern part of the island should be allowed to return to their old homes, and vice versa with Turkish Cypriots. This problem could be addressed through a combination of land swaps and financial compensation.
If the two sides agree on the terms, then two separate referendums will be held, one for the Greek Cypriots and the other for the Turkish Cypriots. The same thing had happened in 2004; however back then, the terms were unfavorable for Greek-Cypriots, leading them to vote against the reunification. This should not be repeated this time. The two sides must be a bit more lenient with their demands and negotiate until fair terms are decided upon, and the issues that might hinder the reunification are resolved. This is the moment for Cyprus to leave aside its past and unite as a single country.