Cyprus: peace talks can lead to a soon unification

Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2008 04:35 am
Greek and Turkish leaders in Cyprus launched a new round of peace talks on Wednesday aimed at reunifying the island after 34 years of division and hostility.

Cyprus leaders launched talks today seen as the best chance in decades to reunite their divided island and end a conflict threatening Turkey's EU membership hopes.

Cypriot president Demetris Christofias, representing the Greek Cypriot community, and Turkish Cypriot president Mehmet Ali Talat, who met in the no-man's land dividing their capital Nicosia, represent what diplomats and analysts say is the first opportunity for a breakthrough in years.

"We must, at long last, put an end to the suffering of our people and reunite our country," Mr Christofias told reporters as he headed for the meeting.

The partitioned status of Cyprus is a headache for the EU. Effectively represented in the bloc by its Greek Cypriots, the island has veto rights over the membership bid of Turkey, a key western ally in the Middle East.

Analysts agree this is the best chance for a solution not least because the two leaders come from leftist parties and, unlike previous negotiators, have little to do with the roots of the island's violent conflict.

"It is widely believed that if these two moderates can't solve it, nobody can," said Hubert Faustmann, a Cyprus-based analyst.[...]
Source: The Irish Times: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2008/0903/breaking33.htm

[...]"It is our responsibility and determination to find an early settlement for the Cyprus problem by the end of the year, negotiating constructively and positively in order to live up to expectations and to turn our island into one of peaceful co-existence," Talat said.

The two moderate leaders met in the presence of former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, appointed U.N. special envoy for Cyprus in July, at a compound which was once the island's main commercial airport.

"There will likely be further difficulties and challenges ahead. At the same time, the Cyprus problem is not insurmountable and the negotiations which will begin today can and must have a successful outcome," Downer told the two leaders in televised comments at the start of the meeting.

When talks start in earnest next week, they will move to what were once the arrival and departure terminals. Bearing witness to past violence, the bullet-riddled shell of an old jet sits on a nearby runway overgrown with weeds.

Divided since a Turkish invasion in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup, the two sides have agreed to reunite as a bizonal bicommunal federation -- but not on how. A key dispute is the unrecognised status of breakaway northern Cyprus, and how to reintegrate it in a federation.

But a deal is unlikely to come as early as Talat hopes, and will also hinge on how it is promoted in the communities, which must approve it in simultaneous referendums, analysts said. A U.N. plan failed in 2004 when Greek Cypriots voted against it.

"The atmosphere on the ground is polarised. They will have to work hard to transfer the positive climate to the people," said Mete Hatay, an analyst at the PRIO peace institute.
Source: Reuters via SwissInfo: http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/news/international/Rival_Cyprus_leaders_launch_reunification_talks.html?siteSect=143&sid=9646306&cKey=1220433746000&ty=ti
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 3 Sep, 2008 01:53 pm
A Chance for Peace in Cyprus

For decades, the island of Cyprus has been divided between the Turkish north and the Greek south. Now, leaders of the two sides are optimistic that reunification can be achieved. Talks began on Wednesday.
Optimism is widespread largely because, for the first time, neither of the two leaders engaged in talks played much of a role in the origins of the conflict. Christofias heads up the left-wing Progressive Party of Working People. He became president in February when he beat Tassos Papadopoulos, who had led Greek Cypriot resistance to a United Nations-sponsored peace plan put up for referendum in 2004.
These days, Greek Cypriots are more sanguine about security -- they joined the European Union in 2004. Nevertheless, there are major hurdles to be cleared. Some 30,000 Turkish troops still inhabit the north, and negotiating a timetable for their withdrawal promises to be tricky. In addition, the Greek side will have to make some concessions on property rights and accept the permanence of numerous Turkish settlers who have moved over from the Turkish mainland.

But these problems are less daunting than they seemed in the not-so-distant past. Until 2005, the Turkish side was headed up by Rauf Raif Denktash, who was instrumental in the establishment of the Turkish Resistance Organization. The paramilitary group was set up in response to the Greek Cypriot national militia, the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA), and carried out numerous attacks on Greek Cypriot targets.

Denktash, not surprisingly, did not make much headway in negotiations with Papadopoulos. The former Greek Cypriot President, after all, had been a member of EOKA in the 1950s.

Source: Spiegel
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