Cyprus dispute

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Template:Politics of Cyprus The "Cyprus Dispute" refers to the conflict between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots and also Republic of Cyprus and Turkey over Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The problem has involved Turkey, Greece, Britain, the United Nations and recently the European Union. Since 1974 the island has been divided into the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus in the south and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognised only by Turkey, in the north.

Historical Background Prior to 1960

As with so much relating to the Cyprus Dispute, the starting date of the conflict is open to argument and controversy. Most Greek Cypriots will point to an uninterrupted Greek presence on the island dating back four thousand years and note that the Turkish presence on the island is far more recent, dating back to the conquest of the island by the Ottoman Empire in 1571. However, as many Turkish Cypriots will point out, this nevertheless gives the Turkish Cypriots a four hundred year old right to regard the island as their home. In more contemporary terms, the Cyprus dispute has been less about who has the right to live on the island. Instead, it has been focused on which country has the greater right to control the island - Greece or Turkey. Starting in the early-nineteenth century, the Greek Cypriots sought to bring about an end to almost 250 years of Ottoman rule over the island and unite Cyprus with Greece, a process called enosis. This call for enosis grew louder after Britain took administrative control of the island in 1878, following the Congress of Berlin. Under the terms of the agreement reached between Britain and the Ottoman Empire, the island would remain an Ottoman territory. However, the Christian Greek-speaking inhabitants of the island saw the arrival of the British as a chance to lobby for the island's union with Greece. Britain refused to consider the idea.

When the First World War began in 1914, Britain annexed Cyprus. Soon afterwards, it offered it to Constantine I of Greece on condition that Greece join the war on the side of the British. Although the offer was supported by Eleftherios Venizelos, the Greek prime minister, it was rejected by the King, who wished to keep Greece out of the war. The offer therefore lapsed. After the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the new Turkish government formally recognized Britain's ownership of Cyprus. In 1925 Britain declared Cyprus to be a Crown Colony. In the years that followed agitation for enosis continued. In 1931 this led to open rebellion. A riot resulted in the death of six civilians, injuries to others, and the burning of the British Government House in Lefkosia. In the months that followed about 2,000 people were convicted of crimes in connection with the violence. Britain reacted by imposing harsh restrictions. Military reinforcements were dispatched to the island, the constitution suspended, press censorship instituted, and political parties banned. Two bishops and eight other prominent citizens directly implicated in the riot were exiled. In effect, the governor became a dictator, empowered to rule by decree. Municipal elections were suspended, and until 1943 all municipal officials were appointed by the government. The governor was to be assisted by an Executive Council, and two years later an Advisory Council was established; both councils consisted only of appointees and were restricted to advising on domestic matters only. In addition, the flying of Greek or Turkish flags or the public display of portraits of Greek or Turkish heroes was forbidden.

Claims for enosis were put on hold during the Second World War, during which time many Cypriots joined the British armed forces. In return, both sides expected that Britain would be prepared to discuss their political wishes at the end of the war. In 1946, the British government announced plans to invite Cypriots to form a Consultative Assembly to discuss a new constitution. As a demonstration of good will, the British also allowed the return of the 1931 exiles. Instead of reacting positively, as expected by the British, the Greek Cypriot hierarchy reacted angrily because there had been no mention of enosis. The Orthodox Church of Cyprus had expressed its disapproval, and twenty-two Greek Cypriots declined to appear, stating that enosis was their sole political aim. The efforts to bring about enosis now increased, helped by active support from the Church of Cyprus, which was the main political voice of the Greek Cypriots at the time. However, it did not have the sole right to speak for the Greek Cypriots. The Church's main opposition came from the Cypriot Communist Party (officially the Progressive Party of the Working People; Ανορθωτικό Κόμμα Εργαζόμενου Λαού; or AKEL), which viewed itself as the alternative political voice to the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, which opposed enosis on the grounds that union with Greece would lead to the party being outlawed.

In 1950, Michael Mouskos, Bishop Makarios of Kition (Larnaca), was elevated to Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus. In his inaugural speech, he vowed not to rest until union with "mother Greece" had been achieved. In Athens, enosis was a common topic of conversation, and a Cypriot native, Colonel George Grivas, was becoming known for his strong views on the subject. In anticipation of an armed struggle to achieve enosis, Grivas visited Cyprus in July 1951. He discussed his ideas with Makarios but was disappointed by the archbishop's reservations about the effectiveness of a guerrilla uprising. From the beginning, and throughout their relationship, Grivas resented having to share leadership with the archbishop. Makarios, concerned about Grivas's extremism from their very first meeting, preferred to continue diplomatic efforts, particularly efforts to get the United Nations involved. The feelings of uneasiness that arose between them never dissipated. In the end, the two became enemies. In the meantime, in August 1954, Greece's UN representative formally requested that self-determination for the people of Cyprus be included on the agenda of the General Assembly's next session. Turkey rejected the idea of the union of Cyprus and Greece. The Turkish Cypriot community had consistently opposed the Greek Cypriot enosis movement, but had generally abstained from direct action because under British rule the Turkish minority status and identity were protected. The expressed attitude of the Cypriot Turks was that, when Britain withdrew, control of Cyprus should simply revert to Turkey – although Turkey gave up all rights and claims to Cyprus in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot identification with Turkey had grown stronger, and after 1954 the Turkish government had become increasingly involved as the Cyprus problem became an international issue. In the late summer and fall of 1954, the Cyprus problem intensified. On Cyprus, the colonial government threatened advocates of enosis with up to five years' imprisonment. In December, the UN General Assembly announced the decision "not to consider the problem further for the time being, because it does not appear appropriate to adopt a resolution on the question of Cyprus." Reaction to the setback at the UN was immediate and violent, resulting in the worst rioting in Cyprus since 1931.

EOKA campaign and creation of TMT, 1955-59

In January 1955, Grivas founded the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion AgonistonEOKA). On April 1, 1955, EOKA opened a campaign against British rule in a well-coordinated series of attacks on police, military, and other government installations in Nicosia, Famagusta, Larnaca, and Limassol. This resulted in the deaths of over 100 British servicemen and personnel and Greek Cypriots suspected of collaboration. As a result of this many Greek Cypriots began to leave the police. They were replaced by Turkish Cypriots. This served to reinforce the impression that Britain was engaging in a divide-and-rule policy. At the same time, it led to tensions between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. In 1957 the Turkish Resistance Organization (Türk Mukavemet TeskilatiTMT), was formed to fight EOKA. In response to the growing demand for enosis, a number of Turkish Cypriots became convinced that the only way to protect the interests and identity of the Turkish Cypriot population in the event of enosis would be to divide the island - a policy known as taksim ("partition" in Turkish) - into a Greek sector and a Turkish sector.

By now the island was on the verge of civil war. Several attempts to present a compromise settlement had failed. Therefore, beginning in December 1958, representatives of Greece and Turkey opened discussions of the Cyprus issue. Participants for the first time discussed the concept of an independent Cyprus, i.e., neither enosis nor taksim. Subsequent talks yielded a compromise agreement supporting independence, laying the foundations of the Republic of Cyprus. The scene then shifted to London, where the Greek and Turkish representatives were joined by representatives of the Greek Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots (represented by Dr Fazil Kucuk), and the British. The Zurich-London agreements that became the basis for the Cyprus constitution of 1960 were supplemented with three treaties - the Treaty of Establishment, the Treaty of Guarantee, and the Treaty of Alliance. The general tone of the agreements was one of compromise. Greek Cypriots, especially members of organizations such as EOKA, expressed disappointment because enosis had not been attained. Turkish Cypriots, however, welcomed the agreements and set aside their demand for taksim. According to the Treaty of Establishment, Britain retained sovereignty over 256 square kilometers, which became the Dhekelia Sovereign Base Area, to the northwest of Larnaca, and the Akrotiri Sovereign Base Area to the southwest of Limassol.

Cyprus achieved independence on August 16, 1960.

Population Distribution

Distribution of Population by Ethnic Group, 1881-1988[*]
Year Total Greeks Turks Armenians Maronites Others
No. % No. % No. % No. % No. %
1881 185,630 137,631 73.9 45,458 24.4 174 0.1 830 0.4 1,537 0.8
1931 347,959 276,573 79.5 64,238 18.4 3,337 1.0 1,704 0.5 2,068 0.6
1946 450,114 361,199 80.2 80,548 17.9 3,686 0.8 2,083 0.4 2,598 0.6
1960 572,707 441,568 77.1 103,822 18.1 3,627 [1] 0.6 2,706 [1] 0.5 20,984 3.7
1973 631,778 498,511 78.9 116,000 18.4 17,267 2.7
1983 653,400 523,100 80.1 121,900 [2] 8,400 1.3
1988 687,500 550,400 80.1 128,200 [2] 8,900 1.3
  • . ^  All the figures and percentages in this chart are reported as they appear in the original sources.

1. ^  In accordance with the 1960 Cypriot constitution, the small Armenian and Maronite communities opted to belong to the Greek-Cypriot community. In this chart, the figures for the Armenian and Maronite populations are included in the population figures for the Greeks in 1973, 1983, and 1988. In 1973, the combined Armenian and Maronite populations made up about 1.5 percent of the population.

2. ^  The figures for the Turkish-Cypriot population for 1983 and 1988 represents Cypriot government estimates based on earlier demographic trends in the Turkish-Cypriot community. They do not take emigration into account.

Source: In Turkey's Image, Christos P. Ioannides

Constitutional Breakdown and Intercommunal Talks, 1960-74

According to constitutional arrangements, Cyprus was to become an independent, non-aligned republic with a Greek Cypriot president and a Turkish Cypriot vice-president. General executive authority was vested in a council of ministers with a ratio of seven Greeks to three Turks. (The Greek Cypriots represented 78% of the population and the Turkish Cypriots 18%. The remaining 4% was made up by the three minority communities: the Latins, Maronites and Armenians.) A House of Representatives of fifty members, also with a seven-to-three ratio, were to be separately elected by communal balloting on a universal suffrage basis. In addition, separate Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Communal Chambers were provided to exercise control in matters of religion, culture, and education. According to Article 78(2) any law imposing duties or taxes shall require a simple majority of the representatives elected by the Greek and Turkish communities respectively taking part in the vote. Legislation on other subjects was to take place by simple majority but again the President and the Vice-President had the same right of veto--absolute on foreign affairs, defence and internal security, delaying on other matters--as in the Council of Ministers. The judicial system would be headed by a Supreme Constitutional Court, composed of one Greek Cypriot and one Turkish Cypriot and presided over by a contracted judge from a neutral country.

Within a short period of time the first disputes started to arise between the two communities. Issues of contention included taxation and the creation of separate municipalities. Because of the legislative veto system, this resulted in a lockdown in communal and state politics in many cases.

Repeated attempts to solve the disputes failed. Eventually, on November 30, 1963, Makarios put forward to the three guarantors a thirteen-point proposal designed, in his view, to eliminate impediments to the functioning of the government. The thirteen points involved constitutional revisions, including the abandonment of the veto power by both the president and the vice president. Turkey initially rejected it (although later in future discussed the proposal). A few days later, on December 21, 1963 fighting erupted between the communities in Nicosia. In the days that followed it spread across the rest of the island. At the same time, the power-sharing government collapsed. How this happened is one of the most contentious issues in modern Cypriot history. The Greek Cypriots argue that the Turkish Cypriots withdrew in order to form their own administration. The Turkish Cypriots argue that they were forced out. In reality, as is often the case in these situations, there is truth to both arguments. Many Turkish Cypriots chose to withdraw from the government. However, in many cases those who wished to stay in their jobs were prevented form doing so by the Greek Cypriots. In any event, in the days that followed the fighting a frantic effort was made to calm tensions. In the end, on December 27, 1963, an interim peacekeeping force, the Joint Truce Force, was put together by Britain, Greece and Turkey. This held the line until a United Nations peacekeeping force, UNFICYP, was formed following UN Security Council Resolution 186, passed on March 4, 1964.

Peacemaking Efforts, 1964-1974

At the same time as it established a peacekeeping force, the Security Council also recommended that the Secretary-General, in consultation with the parties and the Guarantor Powers, designate a mediator to take charge of formal peacemaking efforts. U Thant, the then UN Secretary-General, appointed Sakari Tuomioja, a Finnish diplomat. While Tuomioja viewed the problem as essentially international in nature and saw enosis as the most logical course for a settlement, he rejected union on the grounds that it would be inappropriate for a UN official to propose a solution that would lead to the dissolution of a UN member state. The United States held a differing view. In early June, following another Turkish threat to invade, Washington launched an independent initiative under Dean Acheson, a former Secretary of State. In July he presented a plan to unite Cyprus with Greece. In return for accepting this, Turkey would receive a sovereign military base on the island. The Turkish Cypriots would also be given minority rights, which would be overseen by a resident international commissioner. Makarios rejected the proposal, arguing that giving Turkey territory would be a limitation on enosis and would give Ankara too strong a say in the island’s affairs. A second version of the plan was presented that offered Turkey a 50-year lease on a base. This offer was rejected by the Greek Cypriots and by Turkey. After several further attempts to reach an agreement, the United States was eventually forced to give up its effort.

Following the sudden death of Ambassador Tuomioja in August, Galo Plaza was appointed Mediator. He viewed the problem in communal terms. In March 1965 he presented a report criticising both sides for their lack of commitment to reaching a settlement. While he understood the Greek Cypriot aspiration of enosis, he believed that any attempt at union should be held in voluntary abeyance. Similarly, Turkish Cypriots should refrain from demanding a federal solution to the problem. Although the Greek Cypriots eventually accepted the report, despite of its opposition to immediate enosis, Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots rejected the plan, calling on Plaza to resign on the grounds that he had exceeded his mandate by advancing specific proposals. He was simply meant to broker an agreement. But the Greek Cypriots made it clear that if Galo Plaza resigned they would refuse to accept a replacement. U Thant was left with no choice but to abandon the mediation effort. Instead he decided to make his Good Offices available to the two sides. The end of mediation effort was effectively confirmed when, at the end of the year, Plaza resigned and was not replaced.

In March 1966, a more modest attempt at peacemaking was initiated under the auspices of Carlos Bernades, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Cyprus. Instead of trying to develop formal proposals for the parties to bargain over, he aimed to encourage the two sides agree to settlement through direct dialogue. However, ongoing political chaos in Greece prevented any substantive discussions from developing. The situation changed the following year. On 21 April 1967, a coup d'état in Greece brought to power a military administration. Just months later, in November 1967, Cyprus witnessed its most severe bout of intercommunal fighting since 1964. Responding to a major attack on Turkish Cypriot villages in the south of the island, which left 27 dead, Turkey bombed Greek Cypriot forces and appeared to be readying itself for an invasion. Greece was forced to capitulate. Following international intervention, Greece agreed to recall General George Grivas, the Commander of the Greek Cypriot National Guard and former EOKA leader, and reduce its forces on the island. Capitalising on the weakness of the Greek Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots proclaimed their own provisional administration. Makarios immediately declared the new administration illegal. Nevertheless, a major change had occurred. The Archbishop, along with most other Greek Cypriots, began to accept that the Turkish Cypriots would have to have some degree of political autonomy. It was also realised that unification of Greece and Cyprus was unachievable under the prevailing circumstances.

In May 1968, intercommunal talks began between the two sides under the auspices of the Good Offices of the UN Secretary-General. Unusually, the talks were not held between President Makarios and Vice-President Kuchuk. Instead they were conducted by the presidents of the communal chambers, Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktash. Again, little progress was made. During the first round of talks, which lasted until August 1967, the Turkish Cypriots were prepared to make several concessions regarding constitutional matters, but Makarios refused to grant them greater autonomy in return. The second round of talks, which focused on local government, was equally unsuccessful. In December 1969 a third round of discussion started. This time they focused on constitutional issues. Yet again there was little progress and when they ended in September 1970 the Secretary-General blamed both sides for the lack of movement. A fourth and final round of intercommunal talks also focused on constitutional issues, but again failed to make much headway before they were forced to a halt in 1974.

Invasion and Division, 1974

After 1967 tensions between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots subsided. Instead, the main source of tension on the island came from factions within the Greek Cypriot community. Although Makarios had effectively abandoned enosis in favour of an ‘attainable solution’, many others continued to believe that the only legitimate political aspirations for Greek Cypriots was union with Greece. In September 1971 Grivas secretly returned to the island and formed EOKA-B, a vehemently pro-union organisation. Over the next few years it would repeatedly try to overthrow Makarios. In early 1974 Grivas died and EOKA-B fell under the direct control of Brigadier Demetrios Ioannides, the new head of the Junta in Athens. Ioannidis was determined to bring about enosis as soon as possible. Fearing the consequences of such a step, in early July 1974 Makarios wrote an open letter to the military dictatorship requesting that all Greek officers be removed from the island. On July 15, Ioannidis replied by ordering the overthrow of the Archbishop.

Turkey immediately started planning its response. After failing to secure British support for a joint intervention under the Treaty of Guarantee, Bulent Ecevit, the Turkish prime minister, decided to act unilaterally. On July 20 Turkey ordered a military invasion of the island (Turkish Invasion of Cyprus). Within two days Turkish forces had established a narrow corridor linking the north coast with Nicosia. The invasion led to turmoil in Greece. On July 23 the military Junta collapsed. Two days later formal peace talks were convened in Geneva between Greece, Turkey and Britain. Over the course of the following five days Turkey agreed to halt its advance on the condition that it would remain on the island until a political settlement was reached between the two sides. On August 8 another round of discussion was held in Geneva, Switzerland. Unlike before, this time the talks involved the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. During the discussions the Turkish Cypriots, supported by Turkey, insisted on some form of geographical separation between the two communities. Makarios refused to accept the demand, insisting that Cyprus must remain a unitary state. Despite efforts to break the deadlock, the two sides refused to budge. On August 14, Turkey demanded from Clerides to accept a proposal for a federal state, in which the Turkish Cypriot community (who, at that time, comprised about 18% of the population and owned about 10% of the land) would have got 34% of the island. Clerides asked for 36 to 48 hours to consult with the Cypriot and Greek governments, but Turkey refused to grant any consultation time, effectively ending the talks. Within hours, Turkey had resumed its offensive. By the time a new, and permanent, ceasefire was called 36 per cent of the island was under the control of the Turkish military. The partition was marked by the UN Buffer Zone on Cyprus or "green line" running east to west across the island.

The effect of the division was catastrophic for all concerned. Thousands of Greek and Turkish Cypriots had been killed, wounded or missing. A further two hundred thousand Greek and Turkish Cypriots had been displaced. In addition to the entire north coast (Kerynia, Morfou) and the Karpas peninsula, the Greek Cypriots were also forced to flee the eastern port city of Famagusta. The vast majority of the Turkish occupied area was predominantly owned by Greek Cypriots prior to 1974. In the process about 200,000 Greek Cypriots who made up 82% of the population in the north became refugees; many of them forced out of their homes (violations of Human Rights by the Turkish army have been acknowledged by the European Court of Human Rights), the rest fleeing at the word of the approaching Turkish army. Since 1974, The ceasefire line separates the two communities on the island, and is commonly referred to as the Green Line. By 1975 on 20,000 Greek Cypriots remained in the north, enclaved in the Karpass peninsula. Facing threats of a renewed Turkish offensive as well as threats to ethnically cleanse the enclaved Greek Cypriots the Cyprus government and the United Nations consented to the transfer of the remainder of the 51,000 Turkish Cypriots that had not left their homes in the south to settle in the north, if they wished to do so.Meanwhile, over the months that followed the Turkish Cypriots made their way to the area under Turkish control.

Peace Negotiations, 1974-1994

On April 28 1975, Kurt Waldheim, the UN Secretary-General, launched a new mission of Good Offices. Starting in Vienna, over the course of the following ten months Clerides and Denktash held discussed a range of humanitarian issues relating to the events of the previous year. However, attempts to make progress on the substantive issues – such as territory and the nature of the central government – failed to produce any results. After five rounds the talks fell apart in February 1976. In January 1977, the UN managed to organise a meeting in Nicosia between Makarios and Denktash. This led to a major breakthrough. On February 12, the two leaders signed a four point agreement confirming that a future Cyprus settlement would be based on a federation. The size of the states would be determined by economic viability and land ownership. The central government would be given powers to ensure the unity of the state. Various other issues, such as freedom of movement and freedom of settlement, would be settled through discussion. Just months later, in August 1977, Makarios died. He was replaced by Spyros Kyprianou, the foreign minister.

In May 1979, Waldheim visited Cyprus and secured a further ten-point set of proposals 1979 from the two sides. In addition to re-affirming the 1977 High Level Agreement, these also included provisions for the demilitarisation of the island and a commitment to refrain from destabilising activities and actions. Shortly afterwards a new round of discussions began in Nicosia. Again, they were short lived. For a start, the Turkish Cypriots did not want to discuss Varosha, which was a key issue for the Greek Cypriots. Secondly, the two sides failed to agree on the concept of ‘bicommunality’. The Turkish Cypriots believed that the Turkish Cypriot federal state would be exclusively Turkish Cypriot and the Greek Cypriot state would be exclusively Greek Cypriots. The Greek Cypriots believed that the two states should be predominantly, but not exclusively, made up of a particular community.

Turkish Cypriot Unilateral Declaration of Independence

In May 1983, an effort by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, the then UN Secretary-General, foundered after the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of all occupation forces from Cyprus. The Turkish Cypriots were furious at the resolution. They threatened to declare independence in retaliation. Despite this, in August, Pérez gave the two sides a set of proposals for consideration that called for a rotating presidency, the establishment of a bicameral assembly along the same lines as previously suggested and 60:40 representation in the central executive. In return for increased representation in the central government, the Turkish Cypriots would surrender 8-13 per cent of the land in their possession. Both Kyprianou and Denktash accepted the proposals. However, on 15 November 1983, the Turkish Cypriots took advantage of the post-election political instability in Turkey and unilaterally declared independence. Although the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (TRNC) was soon recognised by Turkey, the rest of the international community condemned the move. Within days the Security Council passed a resolution (14-1 vote: only Pakistan opposed) making it clear that it would not accept the new state and that the decision disrupted efforts to reach a settlement. Denktash denied this. In a letter addressed to the Secretary-General informing him of the decision, he insisted that the move guaranteed that any future settlement would be truly federal in nature.

In September 1984 talks resumed. After three rounds of discussions it was again agreed that Cyprus would become a bizonal, bicommunal, non-aligned federation. The Turkish Cypriots would retain 29 per cent for their federal state and all foreign troops would leave the island. In January 1985, the two leaders met for their first face-to-face talks since the 1979 agreement. However, while the general belief was that the meeting was being held to agree to a final settlement, Kyprianou insisted that it was a chance for further negotiations. The talks collapsed. In the aftermath, the Greek Cypriot leaders came in for heavy criticism, both at home and abroad. After that Denktash announced that he would not make so many concessions again. Undeterred, in March 1986, de Cuéllar presented the two sides with a Draft Framework Agreement. Again, the plan envisaged the creation of an independent, non-aligned, bi-communal, bi-zonal state in Cyprus. However, the Greek Cypriots were unhappy with the proposals. They argued that the questions of removing Turkish forces from Cyprus was not addressed, nor was the repatriation of the increasing number of Turkish settlers on the island. Moreover, there were no guarantees that the full three freedoms would be respected. Finally, they saw the proposed state structure as being confederal in nature. Further efforts to produce an agreement failed as the two sides remained steadfastly attached to their positions.

The Set of Ideas

In August 1988, Pérez called upon the two sides to meet with him in Geneva in August. There the two leaders - George Vasiliou and Rauf Denktash - agreed to abandon the Draft Framework Agreement and return to the 1977 and 1979 High Level Agreements. But the talks faltered when the Greek Cypriots announced their intention to apply for EU membership, a move strongly opposed by the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey. Nevertheless, in June 1989, de Cuellar presented the two communities with the 'Set of Ideas'. Denktash quickly rejected them as he not only opposed the provisions, he also argued that the UN Secretary-General had no right to present formal proposals to the two sides. The two sides met again, in New York, in February 1990. However, the talks were again short lived. This time Denktash demanded that the Greek Cypriots recognise the existence of two people in Cyprus and the basic right of the Turkish Cypriots to self-determination.

On 4 July 1990, Cyprus formally applied to join the European Community (EC). The Turkish Cypriots and Turkey, which had applied for membership in 1987, was outraged. Denktash claimed that Cyprus could only join the Community at the same time as Turkey and called off all talks with UN officials. Nevertheless, in September 1990, the EU member states unanimously agreed to refer the Cypriot application to the Commission for formal consideration. In retaliation, Turkey and the TRNC signed a joint declaration abolishing passport controls and introducing a customs union just weeks later. Undeterred, Pérez continued his search for a solution throughout 1991. He made no progress. In his last report to the Security Council, presented in October 1991, he blamed the failure of the talks on Denktash, noting the Turkish Cypriot leader's demand that the two communities should have equal sovereignty and a right to secession.

On 3 April 1992, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the new UN Secretary-General, presented the Security Council with the outline plan for the creation of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation that would prohibit any form of partition, secession or union with another state. While the Greek Cypriots accepted the Set of Ideas as a basis for negotiation, Denktash again criticised the UN Secretary-General for exceeding his authority. When he did eventually return to the table, the Turkish Cypriot leader complained that the proposals failed to recognise his community. In November, Ghali brought the talks to a halt. He now decided to take a different approach and tried to encourage the to sides to show goodwill by accepting eight Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). These included reducing military forces on the island, transferring Varosha to direct UN control, reducing restrictions on contacts between the two sides, undertaking an island-wide census and conducting feasibility studies regarding a solution. The Security Council endorsed the approach.

On 24 May 1993, the Secretary-General formally presented the two sides with his CBMs. Denktash, while accepting some of the proposals, was not prepared to agree to the package as a whole. Meanwhile, on June 30, the European Commission returned its opinion on the Cypriot application for membership. While the decision provided a ringing endorsement of the case for Cypriot membership, it refrained from opening the way for immediate negotiations. The Commission stated that it felt that the issue should be reconsidered in January 1995, taking into account the ‘the positions adopted by each party in the talks.’ A few months later, in December 1993, Glafcos Clerides proposed the demilitarisation of Cyprus. Denktash dismissed the idea, but the next month he announced that he would be willing to accept the CBMs in principle. Proximity talks started soon afterwards. In March 1994, the UN presented the two sides with a draft document outlining the proposed measures in greater detail. Clerides said that he would be willing to accept the document if Denktash did, but the Turkish Cypriot leader refused on the grounds that it would upset the balance of forces on the island. Once again, Ghali had little choice but to pin the blame for another breakdown of talks on the Turkish Cypriot side. Soon afterwards Denktash relented. He would be willing to accept mutually agreed changes. But Clerides refused to negotiate any further changes to the March proposals. Further proposals put forward by the Secretary-General in an attempt to break the deadlock were rejected by both sides.

Deadlock and Legal Battles, 1994-97

At the Corfu European Council, held on 24-25 June 1994, the EU officially confirmed that Cyprus would be included in the Union's next phase of enlargement. Two weeks later, on July 5, the European Court of Justice imposed restrictions on the export of goods from Northern Cyprus into the European Union. Soon afterwards, in December, relations between the EU and Turkey were further damaged when Greece blocked the final implementation of a customs union. As a result, talks remained completely blocked throughout 1995 and 1996. The situation took another turn for the worse at the start of 1997 when the Greek Cypriots announced that they intended to purchase the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. Soon afterwards, Turkey announced that it would match any military build-up. However, Turkey was now starting to come under increasing pressure from several sides. In December 1996, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) delivered a landmark ruling that declared that Turkey was an occupying power in Cyprus. The case - Loizidou vs Turkey - centred on Titina Loizidou, a refugee from Kyrenia, who was judged to have been unlawfully denied the control of her property by Turkey. In addition to being a major political embarrassment for Ankara, the case also had severe financial implications as the Court later ruled that Turkey should pay Mrs Loizidou US$825,000 in compensation for the loss of use of her property. Ankara rejected the ruling as politically motivated.

After twenty years of talks, a settlement seemed as far off as ever. However, the basic papameters of a settlement were by now internationally agreed. Cyprus would be a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. A solution would also be expected to address the following issues:

  • Constitutional framework
  • Territorial adjustments
  • Return of property to pre-1974 owners and/or compensation payments
  • Return of displaced persons
  • Demilitarisation of Cyprus
  • Residency rights/repatriation of Turkish settlers
  • Future peacekeeping arrangements

EU Accession and the Settlement Process, 1997-Present

In 1997 the basic parameters of the Cyprus Dispute changed. A decision by the European Union to open up accession negotiations with the Republic of Cyprus created a new catalyst for a settlement. Among those who supported the move, the argument was made that Turkey could not have a veto on Cypriot accession and that the negotiations would encourage all sides to be more moderate. However, opponents of the move argued that the decision would remove the incentive of the Greek Cypriots to reach a settlement. They would instead wait until they became a member and then use this strength to push for a settlement on their terms. In response to the decision, Rauf Denktash announced that he would no longer accept federation as a basis for a settlement. In future he would only be prepared to negotiate on the basis of a confederal solution. In December 1999 tensions between Turkey and the European Union eased somewhat after the EU decided to declare Turkey a candidate for EU membership, a decision taken at the Helsinki European Council. At the same time a new round of talks started in New York. These were short lived. By the following summer they had broken down. Tensions started to rise again as a showdown between Turkey and the European Union loomed over the island's accession.

Perhaps realising the gravity of the situation, and in a move that took observers by surprise, Rauf Denktash wrote to Glafcos Clerides on 8 November 2001 to propose a face-to-face meeting. The offer was accepted. Following several informal meetings between the two men in November and December 2001 a new peace process started under UN auspices on 14 January 2002. At the outset the stated aim of the two leaders was to try to reach an agreement by the start of June that year. However, the talks soon became deadlocked. In an attempt to break the impasse, Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General visited the island in May that year. Despite this no deal was reached. After a summer break Annan met with the two leaders again that autumn, first in Paris and then in New York. As a result of the continued failure to reach an agreement, the Security Council agreed that the Secretary-General should present the two sides with a blueprint settlement. This would form the basis of further negotiations. The original version of the UN peace plan was presented to the two sides by Annan on 11 November 2002. A little under a month later, and following modifications submitted by the two sides, it was revised (Annan II). It was hoped that this plan would be agreed by the two sides on the margins of the European Council, which was held in Copenhagen on December 13. However, Rauf Denktash, who was recuperating from major heart surgery, refused to attend. The EU therefore decided to confirm that Cyprus would join the EU on 1 May 2004, along with Malta and eight other states from Central and Eastern Europe.

Although it had been expected that talks would be unable to continue, discussions resumed in early January 2003. Thereafter, a further revision (Annan III) took place in February 2003, when Annan made a second visit to the island. During his stay he also called on the two sides to meet with him again the following month in The Hague, where he would expect their answer on whether they were prepared to out the plan to a referendum. While the Greek Cypriot side, which was now led by Tassos Papadopoulos, agreed to do so, albeit reluctantly, Rauf Denktash refused to allow a popular vote. The peace talks collapsed. A month later, on 16 April 2004, Cyprus formally signed the EU Treaty of Accession at a ceremony in Athens.

Throughout the rest of the year there was no effort to restart talks. Instead, attention turned to the Turkish Cypriot elections, which were widely expected to see a victory by moderate pro-solution parties. In the even, the assembly was evenly split. A coalition administration was formed that brought together the pro-solution CTP and the Democrat Party, which had traditionally taken the line adopted by Rauf Denktash. This opened the way for Turkey to press for new discussions. After a meeting between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kofi Annan in Switzerland, the leaders of the two sides were called to New York. There they agreed to start a new negotiation process based on two phases: phase one, which would just involve the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, being held on the island and phase two, which would also include Greece and Turkey, being held elsewhere. After a month of negotiations in Cyprus, the discussions duly moved to Burgenstock, Switzerland. The Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash rejected the plan outright and refused to attend these talks. Instead, his son Serdar Denktash and Mehmet Ali Talat attended in his place. There a fourth version of the plan was presented. This was short-lived. After final adjustments, a fifth and final version of the Plan was presented to the two sides on 31 March 2004.

The UN plan for the reunification of Cyprus (Annan Plan)

Under the final proposals, The Republic of Cyprus would become the United Cyprus Republic. It would be a loose federation composed of two component states. The northern Turkish Cypriot constituent state would encompass about 28.5% of the island, the southern Greek Cypriot constituent state would be made up of the remaining 71.5%. Each part would have had its own parliament. There would also be a bicameral parliament on the federal level. In the Chamber of Deputies, the Turkish Cypriots would have 25% of the seats. (While no accurate figures are currently available, the split between the two communities at independence in 1960 was approximately 80:20 in favour of the Greek Cypriots.) The Senate would have consisted of equal parts of members of each ethnic group. Executive power would be vested in a presidential council. The chairmanship of this council would rotate between the communities. Each community would also have the right to veto all legislation.

One of the most controversial elements of the plan concerned property. During Turkey's military intervention/invasion in 1974, many Greek Cypriots (who owned 90% of the land and property in the north) were forced to abandon their homes. (A large number of Turkish Cypriots also left their homes.) Since then, the question of restitution of their property has been a central demand of the Greek Cypriot side. However, the Turkish Cypriots argue that the complete return of all Greek Cypriot properties to their original owners would be incompatible with the functioning of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federal settlement. To this extent, they have argued compensation should be offered. The Annan Plan attempted to bridge this divide. In certain areas, such as Morphou (Guzelyurt) and Famagusta (Gazimagusa), which would be returned to Greek Cypriot control, Greek Cypriot refugees would have received back all of their property according to a phased timetable. In other areas, such as Kyrenia (Girne) and the Karpass Peninsula, which would remain under Turkish Cypriot control, they would be given back a proportion of their land (usually one third assuming that it had not been extensively developed) and would receive compensation for the rest. All land and property (that was not used for worship) belonging to businesses and institutions, including the Church the largest property owner on the island, would have been expropriated. While many Greek Cypriots found these provisions unacceptable in themselves, many others resented the fact that the Plan envisaged all compensation claims by a particular community to be met by their own side. This was seen as unfair as Turkey would not be required to contribute any funds towards the compensation.

Apart from the property issue, there were many other parts of the plan that sparked controversy. For example, the agreement envisaged the gradual reduction in the number of Greek and Turkish troops on the island. After six years, the number of soldiers from each country would be limited to 6,000. This would fall to 600 after 19 years. Thereafter, the aim would be to try to achieve full demilitarization, a process that many hoped would be made possible by Turkish accession to the European Union. The agreement also kept in place the Treaty of Guarantee - an integral part of the 1960 constitution that gave Britain, Greece and Turkey a right to intervene military in the island's affairs. Many Greek Cypriots were concerned that the continuation of the right of intervention would give Turkey too large a say in the future of the island. However, most Turkish Cypriots felt that a continued Turkish military presence was necessary to ensure their security. Another element of the plan the Greek Cypriots objected to was that it allowed many Turkish citizens who had been brought to the island to remain. (The exact number of these Turkish 'settlers' is highly disputed. Some argue that the figure is as high as 150,000 or as low as 40,000. In reality, the low end figure is 60,000 and the high end figure is 120,000.) They are seen as settlers illegally brought to the island in contravention of international law. However, while many accepted Greek Cypriot concerns on this matter, there was a widespread feeling that it would be unrealistic to forcibly remove every one of the these settlers, especially as many of them had been born and raised on the island.

Referendums, 24 April 2004

Under the terms of the plan, the Annan plan would only come into force if accepted by the two sides in simultaneous referendums. These were set for 24 April 2004. In the weeks that followed there was intense campaigning in both communities. However, and in spite of opposition from Rauf Denktash, who had boycotted the talks in Switzerland, it soon became clear that the Turkish Cypriots would vote in favour of the agreement. Among Greek Cypriots opinion was heavily weighted against the plan. Tassos Papadopoulos, the president of Cyprus, in a speech delivered on April 7 called on Greek Cypriots to reject the plan. He position was supported by most of the small parties. His coalition partner AKEL, one of the largest parties on the island, chose to reject the plan because it did not provide sufficient security guarantees. Support for the plan was voiced by Democratic Rally (DISY), the main right-wing party, and the United Democrats, a small centre-left party led by George Vasiliou, a former president. Glafcos Clerides, now retired from politics, also supported the plan. Prominent members of DISY who did not support the plan split from the party and formed a new party "For Europe" which opposed the plan.

The United Kingdom (a Guarantor Power), the United States came out in favour of the plan. Turkey also signalled its clear support for the plan. The Greek Government decided to remain neutral. However, Russia was troubled by an attempt by Britain and the US to introduce a resolution in the UN Security Council supporting the plan and used its veto to block the move. This was done as they felt that Britain the US were trying to put unfair pressure on the Greek Cypriots.

In the April 24 referendum the Turkish Cypriots endorsed the plan by a margin of two to one. However, the Greek Cypriots resoundingly voted against the plan, by a margin of three to one.

Referendum Results:

Referendum Result Yes No  Turnout 
 northern part (Turkish Cypriot)  64.90% 35.09% 87%
 southern part (Greek Cypriot)   24.17%   75.83%  88%
Ballot Total Yes No
 northern part (Turkish Cypriot)  50,500 14,700
 southern part (Greek Cypriot)   99,976   313,704 
Total legitimate ballots in all areas    150,500   328,500 
Total legitimate ballots in all areas    30%   70% 

The Cyprus Dispute after the Referendum

On 1 May 2004, a week after the referendum, Cyprus joined the European Union. Under the terms of accession the whole island is considered to be a member of the European Union. However, the terms of the acquis communautaire, the EU's body of laws, have been suspended in the north.

Despite initial hopes that a new process to modify the rejected plan would start by autumn, most of the rest of 2004 was taken up with discussions over a proposal by the European Union to open up direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots and provide 259 million euros in funds to help them upgrade their infrastructure. This has provoked considerable debate. The Republic of Cyprus has argued that there can be no direct trade via ports and airports in northern Cyprus as these are unrecognised. Instead, it has offered to allow Turkish Cypriots to use Greek Cypriot facilities, which are internationally recognised. This has been rejected by the Turkish Cypriots. At the same time, attention turned to the question of the start of Turkey's future membership of the European Union. At a European Council held on 17 December 2004, and despite earlier Greek Cypriot threats to impose a veto, Turkey was granted a start date for formal membership talks on condition that it signed a protocol extending the customs union to the new entrants to the EU, including Cyprus. Assuming this is done, formal membership talks will begin on 3 October 2005.

Following the defeat of the UN plan in the referendum there has been no attempt to restart negotiations between the two sides. While both sides have reaffirmed their commitment to continuing efforts to reach an agreement, the UN Secretary-General has not been willing to restart the process until he can be sure that any new negotiations will lead to a comprehensive settlement based on the plan he put forward in 2004. To this end, he has asked the Greek Cypriots to present a written list of the changes they would like to see made to the agreement. This has been rejected by President Tassos Papadopoulos on the grounds that no side should be expected to present their demands in advance of negotiations. However, it appears as though the Greek Cypriots would be prepared to present their concerns orally. Another Greek Cypriot concern centres on the procedural process for new talks. Mr Papadopoulos has said that he will not accept arbitration or timetables for discussions. The UN fears that this would lead to another open-ended process that could drag on indefinitely. Although there have been indications that the UN is reviewing the situation, as of the end of May 2005 the general feeling is that there appears to be little likelihood that new talks will begin any time soon.

See also

External links

de:Zypernkonflikt el:Κυπριακό πρόβλημα it:Problema di Cipro


Official Publications and Sources

Other Sources

Further reading

  • Brewin, Christopher (2000). European Union and Cyprus, Eothen Press. ISBN 0906719240.
  • Dods, Clement (ed.) (1999). Cyprus: The Need for New Perspectives, The Eothen Press. ISBN 0906719232.
  • Gibbons, Harry Scott (1997). The Genocide Files, Charles Bravos Publishers. ISBN 0951446428.
  • Hannay, David (2005). Cyprus: The Search for a Solution, IB Tauris. ISBN 1850436657.
  • Hitchens, Christopher (1997). Hostage to History: Cyprus from the Ottomans to Kissinger, Verso. ISBN 1859841899.
  • Ker-Lindsay, James (2005). EU Accession and UN Peacemaking in Cyprus, Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1403996903.
  • Mirbagheri, Farid (1989). Cyprus and International Peacemaking, Hurst. ISBN 1850653542.
  • Nicolet, Claude (2001). United States Policy Towards Cyprus, 1954-1974, Bibliopolis. ISBN 3933925207.
  • Oberling, Pierre (1982). The Road to Bellapais, Columbia University Press. ISBN 0880330007.
  • O'Malley, Brendan and Ian Craig (1999). The Cyprus Conspiracy, IB Tauris. ISBN 1860647375.
  • Palley, Claire (2005). An International Relations Debacle: The UN Secretary-General's Mission of Good Offices in Cyprus, 1999-2004, Hart Publishing. ISBN 184113578X.
  • Papadakis, Yiannis (2005). Echoes from the Dead Zone: Across the Cyprus Divide, IB Tauris. ISBN 185043428X.
  • Richmond, Oliver (1998). Mediating in Cyprus, Frank Cass. ISBN 0714644315.
  • Richmond, Oliver and James Ker-Lindsay (eds.) (2001). The Work of the UN in Cyprus: Promoting Peace and Development, Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0333912713.
  • Tocci, Nathalie (2004). EU Accession Dynamics and Conflict Resolution: Catalysing Peace or Consolidating Partition in Cyprus?, Ashgate. ISBN 0754643107.