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Monday, August 5, 2013

Cyprus: Reunification Proving Elusive

Vincent Morelli Section Research Manager

Reunification negotiations that had been ongoing since 2008 with frequent and often intense U.N.-hosted talks between former Republic of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leaders, Ali Talat and then Dervis Eroglu had essentially reached a stalemate on the difficult issues of governance, security, property rights, territory, and citizenship (mostly involving mainland Turks who had “settled” in the north) and were suspended in May 2012.

Through the first half of 2013, the negotiations remained suspended as the outgoing Christofias government and the incoming administration of Nicos Anastasiades (elected President of the Republic in February 2013) grappled with serious domestic banking and fiscal crises. Anastasiades, of the Democratic (DISY) party, was immediately confronted with a tough economic and fiscal austerity program proposed by the EU and European Central Bank, designed to help stabilize the Republic’s economy and prevent a collapse of its banking system, as the price for EU assistance. Implementation of the economic recovery program is in progress.

Not long after Anastasiades was inaugurated, the Turkish Cypriot and Turkish leadership began to publically pressure the Anastasiades government to restart the unification talks as soon as possible. In addition to almost daily public statements by Mr. Eroglu urging the talks to resume, Turkish Cypriot officials traveled to New York and Washington to plead their case. This prompted Anastasiades to respond that he would not be forced to the bargaining table during this period of economic turmoil and was committed to first addressing the government’s fiscal crisis.

That the Turkish Cypriot side, in arguing for the restart of the talks after one year, did not propose any significant compromises or new ideas that would have moved the talks forward raised the question of why the rush. In turn, the Turkish Cypriots have more openly referred to “the realities on the island,” referring to two separate, co-equal states and the need for a timetable for concluding the talks. Ankara for its part had already suggested that while it was ready to say “yes” to a negotiated solution, a “two-state” option, which now seems to be Eroglu’s preferred solution, was viable if talks could not restart and produce a solution in a timely fashion.

In late May, Anastasiades, who himself had supported the Annan Plan for reunification in 2004, met with Eroglu over a social dinner hosted by the U.N. and stated that while he supported the resumption of the negotiations, they could not restart until perhaps October 2013. Further frustrating the Turkish Cypriots was the July decision by the Greek Cypriot National Council to appoint Andreas Mavroyiannis of the Foreign Ministry as the new negotiator for the talks.

One factor that could serve to complicate the Turkish Cypriots’ intent to try to secure an agreement in 2014 is the fact that 2014 will usher in the 40
th anniversary of the 1974 deployment of Turkish military forces to the island and the 10th anniversary of the demise of the Annan Plan. This could present political challenges to the Anastasiades government that could suggest that no agreement could be reached until at least 2015.

The 113
th Congress has already expressed its interest in the Cyprus issue. Legislation (H.Res. 187) has been introduced and letters regarding the unification talks have been sent to the White House and others by Members of Congress sympathetic to both Greek and Turkish Cypriot views of the problem. This report provides a brief overview of the history of the negotiations, a more detailed review of the negotiations since 2008, a description of some of the issues involved in the talks, and where things stand today.

Date of Report: July 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: R41136
Price: $29.95

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