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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive

Vincent Morelli
Section Research Manager

Attempts to resolve the Cyprus problem and reunify the island have undergone various levels of negotiation for over 45 years. Throughout 2011, Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu have continued the negotiation process but have thus far failed to reach a mutually agreed settlement. This stalemate has resulted in a solution for unification still far from being achieved and, coupled with other events, continues to raise the unfortunate specter of a possible permanent separation.

Although both sides have intimated that some convergence of views has been reached in the areas of governance (except perhaps on the issue of a rotating presidency), economy, and EU issues, Christofias and Eroglu still have not found common ground on the difficult issues of property rights, security, settlers, and citizenship, areas where both sides have long-held and very different positions and where neither side seems willing or able to make necessary concessions.

On October 30 and November 1, 2011, Christofias and Eroglu were in New York for a fourth meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to assess the progress of the negotiations. Although Ban insisted progress was being made, he suggested that the three meet again in January 2012 to finalize a deal. Following that meeting an international conference would be held to discuss security issues and referenda would be scheduled in both the north and south by the spring of 2012. The hope among some was that a reunified Cyprus would assume the rotating presidency of the EU on July 1, 2012.

The inability of both sides to report to Secretary Ban at their recent meeting that a solution could be reached by the end of 2011 has been influenced by several recent events that took place over the summer and early fall. First, the last remaining partner in the Greek Cypriot governing coalition, the DIKO Party, withdrew from the coalition, leaving President Christofias without a majority in Parliament and isolated in the negotiations. Second, in October, an independent investigation concluded that a tragic munitions explosion at the Greek Cypriot naval base at Mari in July that killed several people and damaged a major power generating station was ultimately the responsibility of President Christofias. Calls for his resignation have emerged, forcing Christofias to defend his presidency and weakening his support among the general population. Third, in mid-July, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, on a visit to northern Cyprus, warned that no security or territorial compromises by the Turkish Cypriots would be acceptable as part of a final agreement, making compromise on those sticky issues even more difficult. Finally, the Government of Cyprus announced that it would begin drilling for natural gas off the southern coast of Cyprus, prompting both Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots to protest that such a move would jeopardize the settlement negotiations.

The United States Congress continues to maintain its interest in a resolution of the Cyprus issue. Language expressing continued support for the negotiation process has been included in the House FY2012 Foreign Assistance Authorization bill. The chairman of the House Europe Subcommittee also led a delegation to Cyprus during a fall recess to assess the peace process.

This report provides a brief overview of the early history of the negotiations, a more detailed review of the negotiations since 2008, and a description of some of the issues involved in the talks.

Date of Report: November 21, 2011
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: R411366
Price: $29.95

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