Are Cypriots Seriously Interested in Re-unification of Island? – Experts

Azerbaijan, Baku, 27 May / Trend corr E. Tariverdiyeva, R. Hafizoglu/ The re-unification of Cyprus will require compromises from both communities residing in the island. However, many are not sure about rationality of the decision. "The question of how much the Greek and Turkish Cypriots need a solution is one that often arises. Certainly, there are many Greek Cypriots who now question whether a solution would be in their best interests," James Ker-Lindsay, Professor of Kingston University, said.

On 23 May, the leaders of Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus, Dimitris Christophias and Mehmet Ali Talat, discussed the possible settlement for Cyprus re-unification. That was their first official meting, after in March they agreed to consider possibility to restore inter-community re-unification this summer. For this purpose the leaders decided to create the expert groups to study the details of new agreement.

"They have their own state, they are members of the European Union and the economy is doing well. Is it worth risking this by trying to reunite the island," Ker-Lindsey said to Trend via e-mail on 26 May.

According to the expert, many other Greek Cypriots want to be able to regain the properties they lost in 1974, when Turkey invaded the island, and would like to see the Turkish army leave Cyprus. They can see the benefits of a settlement. "For the Turkish Cypriots a solution would mean the end of their isolation and that they would gain the full benefits of the island's EU membership. On balance, therefore, it would seem that most people can see the benefits of a solution of some sort. The question is what type of solution they want, and how much they are willing to compromise in order to achieve it. This is the key question for the months ahead," he wrote.

"In terms of the potential for further violence on the island, the general feeling is that there is little chance that there will be a return to armed conflict between the sides. Since the Green Line was opened 5 years ago, and Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been able to cross over freely, the number of incidents between the two communities has been extremely low. Most people on the island now recognise that any return to fighting would be catastrophic, especially given the economic development that has taken place in Cyprus over the past couple of decades. However, balanced against this, one must remember that as long as a division remains and is patrolled by military forces there is always the possibility that a violent incident may occur, even accidentally. In this sense, the general view is that a solution would certainly help to stabilise the situation, not only on the island but also between Greece and Turkey," Ker-Lindsey wrote.

"Greeks do their best to loosen Turkey's influence upon Cypriot Turks," leader of Cypriot Muslims Ahmet Yonluer said. "I do not believe that the negotiations on re-unification of Cyprus will be successful. Cypriot Turks oppose re-unification because the Greek population of Cyprus tries withdraw Turkish troops, which secure Turks' presence in the island," Yonluer said to Trend in a telephonic conversation from Nikosia (Lefkosha) on 26 May. According to the expert, Greeks want the island to become a Greek-Turkish federation. Successful re-unification of the island requires equal domination of two languages, two religions and two nations in the island. "Unfortunately, Greeks do not want that. So, they are unlikely to accept our re-unification terms. However, I do not think that after re-unification Cyprus will experience clashes between Greeks and Turks, since people do not want a conflict to appear," he said.

"Both communities have long been manipulated by other countries' strategic interests and the prolonged division has often been used as a tactic for the advancement of personal interests of the local politicians," London-based Greek expert Theofanis Exadaktylos, Department of Politics University of Exeter, said. "I strongly believe, that personal ambitions and interests should be set aside, and that it is time for the two sides to really expose their cards on a table of negotiations that will be infused by rationality, good cooperation and good will, and constructive dialogue that will ameliorate the issues at stake and help design a solution that will satisfy both sides to the best possible point," Exadaktylos said to Trend via e-mail on 26 May. According to Exadaktylos, the new leadership of the Greek-Cypriot side, President Christophias, is a man of moderation, of solutions and of determination. "I strongly believe that his election into office will bring a new era of peace and understanding between the two communities. I do not believe that there is an issue of a broader crisis erupting - after all the tensions have been quite latent-thus I do not foresee a riot among ordinary people. I would instead say that there is a fatigue present in both communities from previous unsuccessful attempts which affects their quotidian activities, yet at the same time there is a strong desire to create a new framework of negotiations and that both communities will exert pressure for a solution in the very near future," he said.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 after Turkish troops invaded the island. In spring 2004, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan suggested peace settlement plan for Cyprus, but it was not backed at the referendum by Greek-Cyprus side. Cyprus remained divided into the Republic of Cyprus, which with the support of Athens became a full-fledged state, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus recognized only by Ankara.

The correspondent can be contacted at: [email protected]

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