Ankara Holds Key to Solution, Say Cypriots

Article excerpt

Following numerous failed attempts to reunify their homeland, the island's Greek and Turkish communities are now more than ever hopeful that the 34-year deadlock will be finally broken soon. All Cypriot eyes are now focused on the leaders of the two communities, who are known to be "good friends" and strong supporters of reunification. Furthermore, Greek Cypriot President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are both members of left-wing bi-communal and pro-unification parties. According to both communities, this might prove to be a decisive factor in future negotiations, which are expected to start this autumn. Experts and people on the streets of both sides of divided Nicosia (the Turkish side of Nicosia is known as Lefkosa) believe that this historic window of opportunity has to be seized now.

"If there is no agreement this time, when we have the best possible leadership on both sides, Cyprus would stay divided and would gradually move towards the Taiwan model," Yannis Papadakis, a Greek Cypriot professor of social anthropology at the University of Cyprus told a group of journalists from Brussels-based newspapers, including Europolitics, visiting Cyprus at the end of June.

However, the prospects for a final solution are far from certain, as the Turkish Cypriot part of the island is heavily dependent on Turkey. Both communities admit that no agreement is possible without Ankara's consent. "The key to the solutionais in the handsaof Turkey and it depends greatly on its own will to reach a settlement,''aChristofias said recently.

STILL STALLED

During their first meeting in March, Christofias and Talat agreed to unblock the functioning of six bi-communal working groups and seven technical committees set up in 2006 to deal with various aspects of the Cyprus problem with a view to preparing the ground for substantive direct negotiations to be launched in due time. Originally, the talks were expected to start at the end of June. However, this optimistic goal had to be revised as the six working groups covering such issues as governance, economy, EU affairs, property rights, territorial matters and security had not made much progress over the previous three months.

"The process we have in place now does not move fast," Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou admitted, pointing to Turkey as the main source of delay. "Not only is the problem itself complicated, but there is also Turkey, which is not directly involved, but has great influence on the issue," Kyprianou said. According to another high-level Greek Cypriot official, the Turkish Cypriot representatives within the working groups receive instructions from Ankara and not from Lefkosa. "Everything must be referred to the Turkish military in the northern part of the island," he said. …