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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive



Vincent Morelli
Section Research Manager

As 2012 drew to a close, the Republic of Cyprus concluded what many agreed was a highly successful 6-month presidency of the Council of the European Union that began on July 1, 2012. During that same 6-month period, the Republic experienced banking and fiscal crises not unlike what was taking place in Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal, resulting in a request for financial assistance from the EU and the IMF and the implementation of a tough austerity program.

Lost in the preparations for and conduct of the EU presidency and the trauma of the fiscal crisis was the negotiations with the Turkish Cypriots to try to resolve the political division of Cyprus and set reunification into motion. After two years (2010-2012) of intense negotiations including regular leadership meetings, technical level discussions, and five meetings with U.N. Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon, Republic of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu were unable to find common ground or make enough necessary concessions on the difficult issues of governance, security, property rights, territory, and citizenship (mostly involving mainland Turks who had “settled” in the north), all issues where both sides have longheld and very different positions, to craft a final settlement. By May 2012 the U.N.-sponsored talks having essentially reached a stalemate were suspended.

The stalemated negotiations fell victim to the convergence of several other factors. One was Christofias’s intent to make the Republic’s presidency of the EU a success by not provoking a divisive debate over what probably would have been an unpopular agreement he and Eroglu could have negotiated, to preoccupy or to ultimately overshadow the Cyprus presidency. The second was Mr. Eroglu’s decision not to meet directly with Christofias during the 6-month EU presidency despite the fact that the settlement negotiations were not part of the presidency’s mandate. A third factor was the discovery of natural gas deposits off the southern coast of Cyprus in late 2011 that led to 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. A fourth factor was the February 2013 national election in the Republic. Without an agreement in the works and the EU presidency fast-approaching, Christofias announced he would not seek reelection in 2013, signaling that he would not try for an agreement before he left office.

The change in the status of the negotiations raised questions about how and under what conditions the talks would restart. The Turkish Cypriots saw an opportunity to hopefully start over, under different conditions, with a newly elected government in the Republic. But, Mr. Eroglu’s recent statement that, “following the elections... the negotiation table will be set up... under the roof of the state established by the TRNC people”, will likely be rejected by the incoming Greek Cypriot. These potentially new terms expressed by the Turkish Cypriots have raised the question of whether unification could be achieved at all, increasing the possibility of a permanent separation.

Legislation (H.Res. 676 and S.Con.Res. 47) had been introduced in the 112
th Congress calling for support for the Republic. The Congress will likely continue to maintain its interest in a resolution of the Cyprus issue during the 113th Congress. This report provides a brief overview of the 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: January 3, 2013
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: R41136
Price: $29.95

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