Cyprus Peace Talks
The Geneva UN-led talks is a historic event and the last chance for the island of Cyprus to be reunited. As the European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said: “I really think, without over-dramatising what is happening in Geneva, that this is the very last chance to see the island being recomposed in a normal way.”
The Greek-Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades and the Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci are committed to reach a solution and the European community is hopeful that such an event will improve the political unrest and help solidify the future security, not only of the island but also of Europe.
While the four days of talks ended on Thursday without reaching a final decision, the officials will reconvene on 18 January to address the issue of security and seal a political deal. Negotiators are pleased with the progress that has been achieved and that a deal is genuinely a possibility. If both sides are satisfied with the agreement, then the two communities will have to decide by voting in a referendum. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said: “Looking at what is happening in the world, referenda are not an easy challenge.” He also stressed that the politicians and the negotiators aren’t interested in “miracles or a quick fix, but a solid and sustainable solution”.
Guarantors: Turkey, Greece and the UK
On Thursday, the three guarantor powers, Turkey, Greece and the UK, also joined the talks in Geneva.
The UK is offering half of the size of its military bases. Greece wants the 30,000 Turkish troops to leave the island over a period of time and demands the ending of Ankara’s intervention, while Turkey is disagreeing with Greece’s terms. Turkey also demands that Turkish-Cypriots acquire EU membership.
Treaty of Guarantee (1960)
Since 1960, Thursday has been the first time that the three guarantor powers were discussing the system of guarantees and security. The submission of maps by the two communities and the discussion of territory were also important steps to move the talks forward.
The outdated guarantees of 1960, which some negotiators have discussed this week, demanding their cancelation, refer to the Treaty of Guarantee between the Republic of Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and the UK and Northern Ireland. Article 1 prohibits Cyprus from uniting politically or economically with any other state. Article 2 states that the other parties should guarantee the independence, territorial integrity and security of Cyprus. Article 3 gives the right to the guarantor parties to intervene and take action to re-establish the current state of affairs in Cyprus. This was the provision with which Turkey justified the 1974 invasion and which has allowed the UK to retain its sovereignty over two military bases. For Greek-Cypriot politicians, the system of guarantees should be abolished because it was the source of the division of the island. But the system does seem outdated because it gives the right to any of the other guarantor parties to intervene in the internal affairs of both Turkish- and Greek-Cypriots. For many Greek-Cypriots, the problem arises from Greece and many feel that the island deserves to be its own independent and democratic entity that consists of the free will of its Cypriot citizens, both of Turkish and Greek origin.
The possibility of a solution is long overdue. The two communities, living and working together isn’t just a mere ideal dream, but a necessity. For the younger generation, which doesn’t rely on the hatreds of the past, reunification and the opening of borders will be an important step towards fulfilling how they see themselves and their fellow Cypriots (whether Turkish-Cypriot or Greek-Cypriots): as uniquely Cypriot, with a Cypriot identity which is a rich mixture of the cultural wealth of both communities.