to resolve the political division of Cyprus and reunify the island have
undergone various levels of negotiation for over 45 years. Between May
2010 and May 2012, Republic of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and
Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu engaged in an intensified negotiation
process to reach a mutually agreed settlement. Despite regular leadership meetings,
continuous technical level discussions, and five meetings with U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Christofias and Eroglu were unable to find
common ground or make enough necessary concessions on the difficult issues
of property rights, territory, mainland Turks who had “settled” in the
north, and citizenship, issues where both sides have had long-held and very different
positions, to craft a final settlement.
In May 2012 the U.N.-sponsored talks, which had essentially reached a
stalemate, were downgraded from leaders’ meetings to technical level
discussions. With little apparent objection from either side, the talks
were essentially placed on hold until at least after the 2013 national elections
in the republic. This change in the status of the negotiations has raised
questions about whether unification can now be achieved at all, increasing
the possibility of a permanent separation.
The talks also fell victim to the convergence of several additional factors.
One was that Turkey had announced on several occasions that it would not
deal with any aspect of the EU that involved the Republic of Cyprus once
it assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the EU on July 1, 2012.
Mr. Eroglu, despite the fact that the settlement negotiations were not part of
the presidency’s mandate, also declared he would not meet directly with
President Christofias during the same period. A second factor was Turkey’s
insistence that the U.N. convene an international conference to resolve
security-related issues, which would involve Turkey. The Greek Cypriots refused
to agree to such a conference until the domestic issues were resolved with the
Turkish Cypriots, a condition which continued to become unlikely. A third
factor contributing to the demise of the negotiations was Christofias’s
intent to make the Cyprus presidency of the EU a success; Christofias
clearly did not want a divisive debate over what probably would have been an
unpopular agreement or a potential rejection of any agreement he and Eroglu
could have negotiated to preoccupy or to ultimately overshadow the Cyprus
The discovery of natural gas deposits off the southern coast of Cyprus also
became an issue. The ensuing accusations, threats, and distrust between
the republic, the Turkish Cypriots, and Ankara over how these resources
would be exploited and shared between the two communities also clouded the
negotiating atmosphere. Finally, the EU Commission announced in May 2012 that
it would launch a new “positive agenda” with Turkey that would seek to
strengthen relations with Ankara outside of Turkey’s formal EU membership
process. This may have signaled to Ankara and the Turkish Cypriots that a
settlement to the Cyprus problem would no longer hold up the strengthening
of EU-Turkey relations, thus lessening the urgency of a Cyprus settlement. In
May, without an agreement in the works, Christofias announced he would not
seek reelection in 2013, seemingly signaling that he would not try for an
agreement before he left office.
The United States Congress continues to maintain its interest in a resolution
of the Cyprus issue. New legislation (H.Res. 676 and S.Con.Res. 47) has
been introduced in the House and Senate criticizing Turkey and calling for
support for the republic. 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: August 13, 2012
Number of Pages: 28 Order Number: R41136 Price: $29.95
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