Sapienta Cyprus Backgrounder: Cyprob
Main issues in negotiations to solve the Cyprus problem
Welcome to The Cyprus backgrounder, part of the Sapienta Cyprus Snippets series. The Cyprus backgrounder provides you with a quick snapshot on various specific issues. This one is on the Cyprus problem.
As with any long-running conflict there are strongly held beliefs on all sides. This means that it is impossible to give an account that satisfies all sides. The following is an attempt to be as balanced as possible. For a good, short and balanced read on the background to the Cyprus problem, try The Cyprus Problem: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Prof James Ker-Lindsay, published by Oxford University Press.
The foundation of the Republic of Cyprus
Given its geographical location, Cyprus has been a magnet for external powers for thousands of years. Immediately before independence, Cyprus was a British colony. Before that it had been ruled by the Ottomans, Venetians, Lusignans and so on. The Republic of Cyprus was founded in 1960. The constitution provided (and still technically provides) for power-sharing between Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking citizens, including a Greek-speaking president and a Turkish-speaking vice-president. In the constitution these are referred to as Greek Community and Turkish Community but these days the two communities are generally referred to as Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. According to the census of 1960, the ratio of citizens was 78% Greek Cypriots and 18% Turkish Cypriots, while the remainder comprised the three recognized communities: Maronites, Armenians and Latins (Roman Catholics from Venetian times). The foundation of the Republic of Cyprus was accompanied by the Treaty of Alliance and the Treaty of Guarantee. Controversially, the Treaty of Guarantee, which technically remains in force, gave Greece, Turkey and the UK certain rights of intervention.
The political and physical division
For reasons that are contested by different sides, the power-sharing arrangements fell apart in 1963, fighting broke out between the two communities and Turkish Cypriots withdrew from/were pushed out of government and withdrew/were pushed into enclaves dotted across the island. In 1964, the United Nations Peacekeeping Force (UNFICYP) arrived and remains here to this day, monitoring a long buffer zone across the island. In 1974 the military government in Greece helped instigate a coup in Cyprus, which overthrew the president, Archbishop Makarios. Turkey responded by sending troops into the northern part of the island, which it said was justified under its rights of intervention under the Treaty of Guarantee. This led to the mass dislocation of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Cyprus was therefore politically divided in 1963 and physically de facto divided in 1974. Between 1974 and 2003 it was not even possible to visit the other side. From April 2003 a number of crossing points have been opened.
How each side sees the issue
The two communities do not see the Cyprus problem in the same way. The Greek Cypriot position is that the Cyprus problem is one of invasion and occupation, and that therefore the Cyprus problem primarily dates from 1974. This means that the main protagonist for them is Turkey, rather than the Turkish Cypriots. For Turkish Cypriots, the Cyprus problem is one of the larger community trying to dominate or extinguish the smaller community. For them the Cyprus problem therefore primarily dates from 1963, when Makarios proposed changes to the constitution, and from 1964 when the UN Security Council essentially recognized a Greek Cypriot-only government by responding to a request to send a UN peacekeeping force. For the Turkish Cypriots, therefore, the main protagonist is Greek Cypriots.
Main issues in the Cyprus settlement negotiations
There have been many attempts to solve the Cyprus problem under a model that involves power-sharing in a federation of two constitution states. The last serious attempt ended in 2017 with the collapse of talks in the Swiss resort of Crans Montana. The previous collapse was in 2004, when the “Annan Plan” that would have reunited the island was accepted by 65% of Turkish Cypriots but rejected by 76% of Greek Cypriots. The main issues are as follows and have not changed over the years.
Source for the following text: Sapienta Country Analysis Cyprus, January 2017 issue
Security. How fast and/or whether Turkish troops leave, whether or not the three guarantor powers (Turkey, UK, Greece) continue to have the right of military intervention. This is the issue that divides Greek and Turkish Cypriots the most according to opinion polls.
Territory. How much of the land area currently under Turkish Cypriot de facto control will fall under the Greek Cypriot constituent state in the post-settlement “bizonal bicommunal federation”.
Property. Around 75% of private property in northern Cyprus is owned by Greek Cypriots and much of the housing is lived in by Turkish Cypriots, some of whom were also displaced. Who decides whether property is reinstated, on what basis, who pays for those displaced by reinstatement and for those compensated, and whether or not large-scale reinstatement would conflict with the goal of bizonality is one of the most complex issues in the talks.
Governance. How much power is vested in the federal government and how much in the two constituent states, how the goal of “political equality” is expressed in terms of representation in federal institutions, which competences should lie at the federal level and which should be at the constituent state level. Last, but not least, who gets to be president and how this president is elected.
Citizenship rights of Turks. After settlement policies in the 1970-80s and economic migration thereafter, how many people of Turkish origin (“settlers”) there actually are and who will have the right to permanent residence and/or the right to a united Cyprus citizenship.
Economy and EU affairs. How fast the EU acquis (EU laws) will apply in the Turkish Cypriot constituent state, including the free movement of capital (property purchases), goods and services, labour and persons; formulae for the allocation of government revenues; how a settlement will be accommodated into EU law, in particular whether the current treaties suffice.
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