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Greek Cypriots & Turkish Cypriots

Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots agreements

Despite increased movement and hope for a solution, the latest report on Cyprus by the Research manager of the US Congressional Research Service has adopted the same title it has been using since 2010 that ‘The reunification of Cyprus is proving elusive’.

According to the Cyprus News Agency, the research manager, in his report dated April 29, 2015, Vincent L Morelli, outlines  developments in Cyprus since 2008 and includes the editor`s views on the election of Mustafa Akinci as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.

Morelli notes that while the political environment on both sides of the island immediately after the election took on a positive air, with congratulations and predictions that the negotiations would resume quickly, the scene reminded Cyprus observers of the 2008 election of Demetris Christofias and the almost giddy atmosphere that arose over a possible quick solution to the division of the island.

After Christofias’s election, Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, a long-time acquaintance of Christofias, and a supporter of the 2004 Annan Plan, declared that a solution in Cyprus was possible by the end of 2008.

Akinci, like Talat, has declared that he and President Nicos Anastasiades were of the same generation and could possibly relate more easily to each other and could better understand the measures that both sides would have to take to achieve a solution.
Akinci has spoken of resuming the negotiations as soon as possible and raised the idea of the need for a few “confidence building” measures similar to what Anastasiades had proposed, including a Varosha/Famagusta agreement. The atmosphere between the two leaders should be an improvement over the Anastasiades/Eroglu relationship, but, as was the case between Christofias and Talat, things can change quickly, the author notes.

While the negotiations between Christofias and Talat appeared to get off to a fast start, the differences in positions quickly became apparent, and the talks, although held on a regular basis, soon began to bog down.
“There are two areas worth watching closely as the new era opens. One will be the perception in the republic of Anastasiades’ enthusiasm to reenter the negotiations and to possibly seek quick joint agreements on some of the confidence-building measures raised by Akinci. Christofias’ apparent good relations with Talat quickly ran afoul of the Greek Cypriot opposition, which became suspicious that Christofias was making too many concessions just to get a deal.
According to Morelli,  Akinci was not seen as the preferred choice of Ankara, which would have been more comfortable with another five years of Dervis Eroglu. In fact, it was reported in the Turkish press that Akinci and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had exchanged some unpleasant words immediately after the election.

In his victory statement, Akinci reiterated his campaign position that the status of the relationship between Turkey and Turkish Cyprus should change. “It should be a relationship of brothers/sisters, not a relationship of a motherland and her child,” he had said. This provoked a somewhat angry response from Erdogan and led the Turkish press to question the future of Turkey’s support for the negotiations.
Despite the long period of stalemate and suspension in the negotiations between President Anastasiades and Eroglu, many observers believe the election of Akinci in the north and the positive nature of the early comments made by both Anastasiades and Akinci regarding a possible solution will indeed allow the negotiations to begin anew with a renewed sense of hope that agreements can be reached.
“However, the compromises and concessions each side will still have to make in order to reach a final solution, at the moment, do not appear any closer to being achieved, and thus reaching that final elusive settlement will still not prove to be any easier,” the author said.

Morelli cites an editorial in the April 28 edition of the Hurriyet Daily News, where the author suggested that “Akıncı has been away from active politics for more than a decade”. He says Akinci`s  team is mostly composed of young people unaware of the delicacies and history of the Cyprus problem. Anastasiades might try to score an easy victory. “If the Cyprus talks between the “novice” Akıncı team and a ravenous Anastasiades team somehow agree on a deal that favoured the demands of the Greek Cypriots, Akinci could dangerously risk fundamental demands of the Turkish Cypriots, forcing the whole process to be derailed in a manner very difficult to revive with extreme effort,” Morelli adds.
So Akinci, although congratulated by Erdogan and others in Ankara, “may have to tread lightly in the opening rounds of the negotiations, lest he draw the ire of a wary Turkey”.
The report goes on to say that the concern for some in the Greek Cypriot political leadership now appears to be that any potential settlement arrived at between Anastasiades and Akinci would inevitably enshrine the “two-state” concept with their authority over the northern part of the island forever limited to what weak governing powers an overlapping “federal” government structure would provide.

On  the other hand, says Morelli, some on the island believe that since the lack of a final settlement would not affect the benefits enjoyed by the people of the Greek Cypriot community—who are already members of the European Union—there is little incentive to have their leaders negotiate away parts of their current authority and power to govern.
Others with closer ties to Ankara—some suggest mostly from within the community of Turks who have settled in the north—do not wish to be governed in any way by Greek Cypriots and will not give Akinci much support if they sense he is making too many concessions to Anastasiades.

It said that as the International Crisis Group pointed out in its 2009 report, there appears to be a growing younger generation on both sides of the island who have never interacted with the other and see no reason to, do not have as much of a stake in the property issue, and may not wish to face the uncertainties and potential problems that a settlement neither side likes could create.
Another dimension to the Cyprus problem comes in the form of the EU itself, says Morelli. “Of all of the problems currently confronting the EU, few have been as enduring or as perplexing as the failure to resolve the political division of Cyprus after all these years of negotiations. While hardly as critical an issue for the future of the EU as others, the Cyprus problem has, nevertheless, become one of those thorns in the EU’s side that has caused continued frustration in Brussels on several counts.
Commenting that the US Congress has long maintained interest in a resolution of the Cyprus issue, Morelli says that a lack of a negotiated settlement continues to affect relations between Turkey and the European Union (EU), Turkey and Greece, and the EU and NATO. The situation also warrants attention because of the US interest in a strong relationship with Turkey and the prospect that the Eastern Mediterranean could play an important role in energy development and supply.
The Cyprus problem, he  said, has posed major problems for the EU and the Republic itself as they continue to face the increasing possibility of a permanently divided island and increasing and long-term tensions with Ankara over Turkey’s role in the north and, more recently, over the exploitation of hydrocarbons off the southern coast of Cyprus.

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