Is a solution in sight for Cyprus?

Leon Emirali

On 20th July 1974, the small Mediterranean island of Cyprus was invaded by thousands of Turkish troops after last-minute talks in the Greek capital failed to reach a solution.

Tensions on the island had been running high since a military coup took place five days earlier. Many of the Turkish Cypriot community on the island feared that the Greek-backed military would ignore their rights and look to seek unification with the Greek mainland.

Since then, the island has been divided. The southern, Greek-administrated portion of the island is a member state of the EU whereas the northern, Turkish-administrated area is only recognised by Turkey and is effectively cut off from the rest of the world.

Whilst peace talks have been ongoing on the island for several decades, there is fresh hope that Cyprus can once again become one state. Here’s three reasons why:

1. Hydrocarbon discovery

Significant quantities of hydrocarbons in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus have been discovered and the decision to proceed with their exploration may prove to be a tremendous opportunity for the island. Both Turkish and Greek political leaders must reach an agreement for the resource to be be fully utilised, presenting opportunities for enormous wealth on the island. Indeed, the recent visit of US Vice President Joe Biden to Northern Cyprus, the first of its kind, indicated that the West is finally paying attention to the global benefits of a resolution to this issue.

2. New president. New hope

In April earlier this year, Northern Cyprus elected Mustafa Akinci as its new president. Akinci is a leftist moderate, campaigned on a platform of peace. In the early days of his presidency, Akinci has promised to meet with his Greek counterpart, Nicos Anastasiades to discuss a settlement on the island. Whilst any reunification deal will be complex, Akinci’s rhetoric has been positive. A key stumbling block remains the reluctance of the Greek community to re-unify. In 2004, a referendum was held in Cyprus as part of the UN Annan plan. Whilst 65% of Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of reuniting, 76% of Greek Cypriots rejected the settlement.

3. Greek economic crisis

The Greek economic crisis is likely to have several implications for Cyprus. Not least the destabilisation of the Greek Government, which could potentially lead to a shift in policy towards Cyprus if it begins to rely on Turkish ally, Russia. Whilst that situation remains fluid, it’s hard to predict the extent of such a scenario’s impact on Cyprus, but with the stars for reunification beginning to align elsewhere, this could further play in to the fortunes of those supporting a settlement.

This isn’t the first time Cypriots have been subjected to false hope, but more than 40 years after the island divided, maybe this time it’ll be different.

Leon is a Senior Account Manager at PLMR. His grandparents emigrated to the UK from Cyprus in the 1950s.

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