Cyprus’s Elusive Reunification: So Near to a Solution, Yet so Far

Courtesy of andberlinblog/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Elcano Royal Institute on 19 January 2017.


The reunification of Cyprus is one of the world’s longest running and intractable international problems. The latest talks in Geneva in January 2017 between Nicos Anastasiades, the Greek-Cypriot President, and Mustafa Akıncı, his Turkish-Cypriot counterpart, after 20 months of negotiations, made significant progress. The issues of territorial adjustments and security and guarantees are the most sensitive and core issues yet to be resolved and ones that will determine whether a solution can be reached and approved in referendums on both sides.



The Mediterranean island has been divided since Turkey’s invasion in 1974 in response to the Greek military junta’s backing of a coup against President Makarios aimed at enosis (union with Greece).1 Cyprus is the only divided country in Europe and its capital, Nicosia, is also split in two.

History Regional Stability Politics

Reassessing the Prospects for Overcoming the Cyprus Divide

Division line between the Turkish and Greek part of Nicosia, capital city of Cyprus. Image: Petros Kkolas/Flickr

This article was originally published by Europe’s World on 11 Sepember, 2015.

There is no doubt that following the rise of Mustafa Akıncı to become the Turkish Cypriot leader this April, there have been high expectations for a resolution to the Cyprus problem. Nevertheless, it is important to be pragmatic and not underestimate the difficulties. For a real resolution, it is essential to achieve consensus on several major aspects of the problem.

First, there are serious constitutional disagreements between the two sides. The Greek Cypriot position is that the bi-zonal, bi-communal federation and the new partnership are an evolution of the Republic of Cyprus, which is recognised by all countries except Turkey. The Turkish Cypriot position is that the new partnership will involve a new state entity, to be created by two equal and sovereign constituent states. In terms of governance, the Greek Cypriots stress the importance of a unified state with a common society, economy and institutions. Turkish Cypriot positions revolve around entrenching a new situation based on ethno-communal lines. Bridging this gap will be difficult given that the positions reflect two fundamentally opposing philosophies. Furthermore, while the Turkish Cypriot positions are nearer to a confederation, or at best a very loose federation, the Greek Cypriots have in mind a federal arrangement with a rather strong government. It should be stressed that President Nicos Anastasiades himself may be willing to engage in a serious discussion about decentralisation provided he is satisfied on other issues such as territory and property.

International Relations Conflict

Old Wine in New Wineskins: Elections in Cyprus and their ‘Impact’ on Negotiations

Cyprus flag. Photo: Nicolas Raymond/flickr.

Cyprus is currently envisaging remarkable development. Governments changed in both parts of the island amidst economic troubles that call for drastic reforms. A casual observer might find that a new opportunity arises from all the turmoil. For the first time in Cypriot History both governments are led by, at least former, supporters of a final solution to the Cyprus problem.

The new President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiadis, was one of the few Greek Cypriot politicians, who supported the Annan-Plan, a comprehensive solution plan that failed to gain Greek Cypriot public support in the 2004 referendum. Özkan Yorgancioğlu, the new Turkish Cypriot Prime minister represents the Cumhuriyeti Türk Partisi, a party that equally supported the UN-blue print in the referendum that a majority support amongst Turkish Cypriots.

International Relations Security

Cyprus: A Mediterranean Symptom

UN Buffer Zone - Ledra, Cyprus / Photo: Jpatokal, Wikipedia

The division of Cyprus embodies most of the challenges that the Mediterranean region is facing today.

In 1974, following the Greek coup attempt, the Turks invaded the island and now occupy the northern part – called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – which is recognized only by Turkey.

Since that time, the frozen conflict over Cyprus has been a sticking point for both the EU and Turkey: the EU for having one of its member states occupied by a foreign country; and Turkey for having its EU accession hopes slowed down.

Cyprus represents a divided region, divided between a Muslim and a Christian community; between an aging side looking for comfort and a youthful one looking for opportunities; between a peaceful Europe with a high GDP and a conflicting Arab world that struggles to adapt to globalization.

It is also divided by a physical wall, the Green Line, which until 2003, was not possible to cross.


Grave Robbin,’ Climate Talkin’ (or not) and Skipped Bills

Photo: williac/flickr
Photo: williac/flickr

How they pulled it off, no one knows, but grave robbers managed to steal the body of former Cyprus president Tassos Papadopulous on Friday, a day before the anniversary of his death and as the islands two leaders meet yet again to attempt to hammer out a peace deal.

The hard-line Greek Cypriot died of lung cancer last year, 10 months after losing his quest to be re-elected in the first round of polling. Papadopulous was instrumental in calling for Greek Cypriots to reject a UN-sponsored peace deal in 2004 that would have paved the way for island reunification.

According to reports, the thieves managed to lift a 250kg stone covering the grave, dig down to the corpse and steal it.

This happened as Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat and Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias start the latest in a line of meetings to work out a reunification plan, this time, with ‘The Elders.’

Three suspects were questioned and released.

Just goes to show literally how low folks can go.

In other news: Depending on who you read, developing nations are either threatening to walk out of the Copenhagen talks or have already done so.

The NY Times says:

“Jairam Ramesh, the chief negotiator for India, said that the Group of 77 developing countries had staged the temporary walkout because their representatives had grown frustrated with how conference leaders had been conducting negotiations.”

Update (16:41): Le Temps says they’re back. Thanks Jonas!

By the way, Tyler Brule has an excellent op-ed in the FT on consumer ‘eco’ fatigue.

And last but not least: A Genovese hotel is reportedly suing Al-Saadi Gaddafi for skipping out on a EUR 300,000 bill. Muammar’s son is on the town’s soccer football team.

Good luck with that.