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Cyprus Question
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Historical Review

Cyprus, owing to its strategic position, was throughout its history colonized by some of the most influential colonial powers in the Eastern Mediterranean. In 1878 Britain was the last power to occupy Cyprus, taking over the island from the Ottoman Empire. The Cypriots, Greeks and Turks alike, had for centuries co-existed peacefully in mixed villages, towns and places of work.

Though the Greek Cypriots had always voiced their demand for national self-determination, it was a demand which, in the pre-World War II international environment, the colonial power did not satisfy. Prior to World War II, the policy of the leadership of the Turkish Cypriots could be summed up as opposition to the national aspirations of the Greeks. The first party of the Turkish Cypriot community, KATAK (Party for the Protection of the Turkish Minority), formed in 1943, supported the continuation of British colonial rule. The following year witnessed the foundation of the Turkish National Party, which drew its ideological inspiration from the Turkish Republic.

What came to be known as the Cyprus Problem appeared in the early post World War II years, which inaugurated the universal demand for self-determination and the ensuing crisis of the colonial system. In 1955, when all their demands for self-determination were ignored, the Greek Cypriots embarked upon a militant struggle to free the country from colonial rule. The British Government, unable to face the national liberation movement in Cyprus, began to exploit the Turkish factor and encouraged the intervention of Ankara. Turkey’s declared policy toward Cyprus, which had until the early fifties been one of support toward the colonial status quo, began to shift toward a policy of partition of the island along ethnic lines. Professor Nihad Erim, who had been assigned by Turkey’s Prime Minister Adnan Menderes to formulate a policy for Cyprus, prepared and submitted in November 1956, a memo proposing the geographical division of the island coupled with the transfer of populations. This straightforward proposal for ethnic cleansing would result in the formation of two separate political entities, one Greek and one Turkish, each of which would then proceed to political union with Greece and Turkey respectively. Finally, the memo noted that Ankara should participate in the security of the Greek sector of the island.

Professor Erim’s memo formed the basis of Ankara’s policy for the next twenty years. The Turkish Cypriot nationalist leadership became in effect the instrument for the implementation of Turkey’s policies in Cyprus. The Turkish National Party`s policy shift was reflected in the adoption of the new name:“Cyprus is Turkish”. What is more, officers from Turkey helped establish Turkish Cypriot clandestine organizations, Volkan and subsequently TMT. Their members were recruited primarily from the ranks of the paramilitary security force formed by the colonial administration and made up exclusively by Turkish Cypriots, for the purpose of fighting the national liberation movement in Cyprus. Aiming toward total influence amongst the Turkish Cypriots, the TMT waged a campaign of murderous terror against their co-nationals in the Trade Unions, the major institutions in which members of the two communities co-operated for common social and political causes. The TMT leadership therefore sought conflict with the Greeks as the strategy for partition.

In 1958, following the eruption of intercommunal clashes and the proposal of a partitionist plan by the British government, the national liberation movement in Cyprus, led by Archbishop Makarios, accepted a solution of limited independence the premises of which had been elaborated in Zurich by the governments of Greece and Turkey.

The constitution in particular, categorized citizens as Greeks or Turks. Elected positions were filled by separate elections. Separate municipalities were established in each town and separate elections were to be held for all elected public posts. Posts filled by appointment and promotion, such as the civil service and police, were to be shared between Greeks and Turks at a ratio of 70 to 30. In the army this ratio rose to 60 to 40. The President was designated Greek and the Vice-President Turkish, each elected by their respective community. The Turkish Cypriot community also enjoyed vetoes in both the executive and legislative branches of the government. The Turkish-Vice President could block the decisions of the President whereas in the House of Representatives fiscal, municipal and electoral legislation required separate majorities.

The Turkish Cypriot leadership made full use of their constitutional privileges to block decisions of the government and render the administration of the young republic difficult and inefficient. Their ulterior motives were presented in two top-secret documents, found in December 1963 in the office of Niazi Plumer, one of the three Turkish ministers in the government. These documents, covering the period between October 1959 and October 1963 explained in great detail the policy of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, a policy in which the 1959 agreements were an interim stage toward partition. (Copies of both documents are appended as annexes 8 and 9 in the memorandum submitted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons on February 27, 1987).

In 1963, after the Turkish members of the House of Representatives had rejected the budget, President Makarios decided to submit to the Turkish Cypriot Vice-President for consideration, proposals for constitutional amendment. Despite the fact that his proposals aimed toward removing certain causes of friction between the two communities and of the obstacles to the smooth functioning and development of the state, the government of Ankara opposed the amendments outright, even before their consideration by the Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriot leadership followed suit. In December 1963 tensions rose when police cars used by Turkish Cypriot policemen suspected of engaging in the distribution of weapons refused to submit to government inspection.

In December 1963 armed clashes broke out in Cyprus. Immediately the Turkish Cypriot leadership openly called for partition, Turkish policemen and civil servants withdrew from their posts en masse and Ankara threatened to invade. Facing a very grave threat to the Republic’s existence, the government tried to contain the revolt but could do little to prevent armed civilians of both sides from taking part in the clashes. The instances when these irregulars failed to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants tainted the conflict with sectarian violence and loss of innocent lives in both communities.

These tragic but isolated events were utilised by the Turkish Cypriot nationalist leaders in their propaganda that the two communities could not live together, in spite the fact that this leadership bore a heavy responsibility for the political situation. A large number of Turkish Cypriots withdrew into enclaves, partly as a consequence of the hostilities that had taken place but mostly due to the efforts of their nationalist leadership to enforce a de-facto partition of the island. In doing so, the Turkish Cypriot nationalist leadership had turned against members of their community who stood for co-operation between the two communities.

Even before the crisis of Christmas 1963, in April 1962, the two editors of “Chumhuriet”, a Turkish language newspaper advocating co-operation between the two communities, had been gunned down in circumstances pointing the finger at the TMT. In April 1965 another prominent Turkish Cypriot, in charge of the Turkish section of the bi-communal trade unions, was ambushed and murdered by the TMT. This policy of murderous intimidation against supporters of intercommunal co-operation continued through the years of independence.

The pattern of establishment of the enclaves did not necessarily follow the distribution of the Turkish population. The Turks attempted with some success to occupy strategic positions such as the Kokkina enclave on the northern coast, through which military personnel and hardware were transported to the island from Turkey, as well as the medieval St Hilarion castle, commanding the road linking the capital to the coastal town of Kyrenia. The largest enclave was set up by the Turkish military contingent, which, in open violation of the Treaty of Guarantee, abandoned their camp and established themselves north of the capital, thus cutting the road between Nicosia and Kyrenia. For Turkey, these enclaves were primarily bridgeheads for facilitating the planned invasion. Indeed, when in August 1964 the government attempted to contain the Kokkina bridgehead, Turkey’s air force bombed the National Guard and neighbouring Greek villages with napalm and threatened to invade.

The other major purpose served by the enclaves was the political and physical separation of the two communities. Despite the Turkish leadership’s claims that they were concerned for their community, the policy of forced segregation created very considerable economic and social hardship for the mass of the Turkish Cypriots. This fact was noted in the UN Secretary General’s reports on Cyprus:
“Indeed, since the Turkish Cypriot leadership is committed to physical and geographical separation of the communities as a political goal, it is not likely to encourage activities by Turkish Cypriots which may be interpreted as demonstrating the merits of an alternative policy. The result has been a seemingly deliberate policy of self-segregation by the Turkish Cypriots (S/6426, Report of 10.6.1965, p. 271)”.

Calls for peace and reconciliation with the Greek Cypriots were silenced. As late as 1973 the leader of the Republican Party, Eichan Berberoglu, who had decided to run against Rauf Denktas in the elections, was eventually forced to stand down following pressure from the Turkish ambassador and the TMT.

Turkey found the pretext to impose its partitionist plans against Cyprus following the coup of July 15, 1974, perpetrated against the elected government of President Makarios by the Athens military junta. On July 20, claiming to act under article 4 of the Treaty of Guarantee, the Turkish armed forces staged a full scale invasion against Cyprus. Though the invasion was in violation of all rules of international legality, including the UN Charter, Turkey proceeded to occupy the northern part of the island and empty it from its Greek inhabitants. By the end of the following year, the majority of the Turkish Cypriots living in the areas left under the control of the Republic had also made their way to the part of Cyprus occupied by the Turkish army. Thereby, the policy adopted by Ankara twenty years earlier, of partition and forcible population expulsion, had been enforced. The human cost was immense. Thousands of Greek Cypriots were killed or maimed as a result of the actions of the invading Turkish army. Moreover, till today the fate of approximately 1500 persons is not known and they are still missing. 1493 of these cases were submitted for investigation to the Committee on Missing Persons, which operates under the auspices of the United Nations. Over 36% of the Republic of Cyprus territory, representing 70% of the economic potential came under the occupation of the Turkish military. One third of the Greek Cypriots became refugees in their own country and are to this day prevented from returning to their homes by the Turkish occupation authorities. In an effort to alter the country’s demographic structure Ankara has brought into Cyprus over 160,000 colonists from Turkish Anatolia. In view of the mass emigration of Turkish Cypriots from the occupied area the total number of Turkish troops and settlers is now greater than that of the Turkish Cypriots remaining.

The United Nations have in several resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council demanded respect for the independence, unity and territorial integrity of Cyprus, the return of refugees to their homes and the withdrawal of foreign troops from the island. All of these resolutions have been consistently ignored by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership. The basis for a solution of the Cyprus Problem has been set in two High Level Agreements. Both agreements, (between President Makarios and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mr. Denktash, in February 1977 and between President Kyprianou and Mr. Denktash in May 1979), were concluded under the auspices of the UN Secretary General and provided for a solution to the problem in accordance with UN resolutions.

The most striking evidence of the Turkish side’s unwillingness to work for a solution in line with UN policy was given on November 15, 1983 when, in order to consolidate their hold over the occupied area, the Turkish Cypriot leadership unilaterally declared that area an independent state, by the name of “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. Despite the fact that this act has been condemned by the UN and that no country other than Turkey has recognised this illegal secessionist entity, the situation continues.

Though since 1977 several rounds of talks under UN auspices have taken place, they have produced no result, given that the Turkish side refuses to abide by UN resolutions. In January 1989 the government of Cyprus submitted “Outline Proposals for the Establishment of a Federal Republic and the Solution of the Cyprus Problem”, which were in accordance with the UN resolutions on Cyprus and the two High Level Agreements. Another demonstration of the government’s willingness to work toward a just solution of the issue was given by President Clerides' proposals of December 17, 1993, according to which the Republic was prepared to disband the National Guard and hand over all its weapons to the custody of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus.

The Turkish side continuously ignores international opinion on Cyprus and insists on pursuing a policy of legitimising the status quo it has imposed through the use of military might and which the international community deems as unacceptable. In doing so the Turkish side continues to violate the human rights of Cypriots and has thus run against judgment and opinion coming from the most authoritative international institutions. An important case, Loizidou v. Turkey, was tried in the European Court of Human Rights. In two successive judgments, the court found Turkey guilty of denying Mrs Loizidou access to her property in occupied Kyrenia and ordered the payment of damages. The same court, in a judgment on May 10, 2001, in the Fourth Interstate application of Cyprus against Turkey, found Turkey guilty of massive human rights violations in the occupied part of Cyprus.


Latest Developments


The year 2008 marks forty-eight years since the birth of the Republic of Cyprus. For thirty-four of those years, the island and its people have been divided as a result of Turkey's invasion in 1974. The military aggression against Cyprus continues unabated to this date in the form of military occupation, forcible division, and violation of human rights, massive colonization, cultural destruction, property usurpation and ethnic segregation.

A member state of the United Nations and the European Union today, Cyprus continues to be victim of unabashed international aggression by Turkey, a member of the UN and aspiring member of the EU. This is an insult to international legal order and a constant threat to regional stability.


Efforts to Reach a Settlement


Negotiations for the solution of the Cyprus problem have been going on intermittently since 1975 under the auspices of the United Nations. The solution was to be based on the UN Security Council resolutions as well as the two high-level agreements of 1977 and 1979. The 1977 agreement concluded between President Makarios and Rauf Denktash, set the "guidelines" for subsequent negotiations. The goal was to establish an independent, bicommunal federal republic, with a central federal government empowered to safeguard the unity of the country. The 1979 high-level agreement between President Spyros Kyprianou and Rauf Denktash, further included respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of all citizens, demilitarization of the island, adequate guarantees for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic, and priority to reaching agreement on the resettlement of Greek Cypriot refugees in Varosha (the modern city of Famagusta).

Turkish intransigence invariably undermined the UN peace process and obstructed progress. Aptly capturing the Turkish attitude, the UN Secretary-General stated in his report to the Security Council of 30 May 1994, following the failure of another round of UN-sponsored talks in Nicosia between February and March 1994: «For the present the Security Council finds itself faced with a familiar scenario: the absence of agreement due essentially to the lack of political will on the Turkish Cypriot side».

In December 1999, the UN embarked on yet another effort through "proximity talks" which would take full consideration of relevant UN resolutions and treaties. By 10 November 2000, five rounds of talks had taken place. The issues discussed were territory, security, property, and distribution of power. However, there was no progress as the Turkish Cypriot leader kept reverting to his demand for recognition of the illegal regime in occupied Cyprus as a separate, sovereign "state".
After a pause of over a year, "direct talks" were launched on 16 January 2002 between the then President Glafkos Clerides and Rauf Denktash but with no substantive progress. In an effort to move the process forward, the UN Secretary-General presented to the sides on 11 November 2002, a detailed plan for a comprehensive settlement. The plan was resubmitted in revised form on 10 December, 2002 and on 26 February 2003.

The UN Secretary-General invited the leaders of the two communities for talks in The Hague on 10 March 2003. They were also to consider submitting the UN plan to a vote by the people. Tassos Papadopoulos, who had succeeded Glafkos Clerides, stated that he would be willing to hold a referendum provided there was a legal framework in place to ensure a workable and durable settlement, and that the security aspects of the plan were resolved between Greece and Turkey. However, the Turkish Cypriot leader, backed by Turkey, rejected the plan and refused to submit it to a referendum. As a result, the talks collapsed.

Under the burden of widespread criticism from the international community and the disappointment of the Turkish Cypriots themselves, the Turkish Cypriot leadership attempted to remedy the situation. On 23 April 2003 it announced partial lifting of the illegal restrictions imposed on the crossings to and from the occupied areas, imposed by the occupation forces since 1974.
Despite the stalemate following the collapse at The Hague, the Greek Cypriot side consistently expressed its readiness to participate in new negotiations based on the UN Secretary-General's plan in an endeavour to reach an agreement before 1 May 2004, so that a reunited Cyprus would accede to the European Union.

Intercommunal talks resumed once again in 2004 in New York, where it was agreed that the two sides begin substantive negotiations on the basis of the Secretary-General's second revised plan in an effort to produce a final text. If the deadlock continued even after the involvement of Greece and Turkey in the process, the UN Secretary-General would exercise his discretion and proceed to finalize the text. The two communities would then vote on the plan in separate, simultaneous referenda.

The prospect of the finalization of the plan by the UN Secretary-General proved counter-incentive. No substantial negotiations took place either in Cyprus or Bürgenstock, Switzerland, since the Turkish side consumed most of the time submitting demands which were contrary to the fundamental principles of the UN plan, as well as to previously agreed trade-offs. On 31 March 2004 the Secretary-General submitted to the two sides a revised, final plan (Annan V). Separate referenda were held by the two communities on 24 April 2004. By a vote of 64,9% the Turkish Cypriots approved the plan, while a clear majority of 75,8% of Greek Cypriots rejected it.

The "no" vote of the Greek Cypriots was not a rejection of reunification of the island which remains their primary goal. It was a legitimate expression of the real concerns over a gravely flawed Annan Plan. These concerns largely centered around some serious shortcomings of the Annan plan, which did not provide for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Cyprus and for the elimination of the right of foreign powers to unilaterally intervene in Cyprus; for adequate guarantees to ensure that commitments undertaken by the parties involved will be carried out; for the removal of Turkish settlers from Cyprus (instead itlegitimized this international crime and the permanent inflow of Turkish nationals); for a functional government without deadlocks or voting restrictions based on ethnicity; for the right of all Cypriots to acquire property and to settle where they choose without restrictive quotas; for a property recovery system that appropriately recognized the rights and interests of displaced Greek Cypriots who were forced from their homes in 1974; and for a property compensation arrangement that did not require Greek Cypriots to fund their own restitution.

A viable solution to the Cyprus problem must be both fair and perceived as such by the people who will have to live with it. Such a solution, therefore, must be democratic, just, workable, and financially viable. It must also be and compatible with EU principles, laws and democratic norms, the Convention on Human Rights and key UN resolutions. Cyprus must remain an independent, unified state with full sovereignty and territorial integrity. Moreover, the settlement must not give to any country the right to intervene in the internal affairs of the state. Cyprus should not be hostage to Turkey's or other foreign interests.

Exploratory talks with the UN on the possible resumption of the peace process were held in 2005. As a result, a meeting between President Papadopoulos and the Turkish Cypriot leader Talat was held on July 8 2006, in the presence of the UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari. An agreement was reached at the meeting on a
set of principles, in preparation of the ground for renewed talks. The two leaders, interalia, committed themselves to the reunification of Cyprus based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation and political equality, as set out in the relevant Security Council resolutions. They also agreed to begin a process immediately, involving bi-communal discussion of issues that affect the day to day life of the people.

However, the efforts of the Turkish side for the political upgrading of the illegal secessionist regime, its insistence on the myth of the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and the intransigent and provocative statements by Turkish officials contributed neither to the efforts for the implementation of the 8 July Agreement nor to the goal for a just, mutually acceptable and functional solution of the problem.

To facilitate the process, on 15 November 2006 the UN Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs submitted to the leaders of the two communities suggestions for the implementation of the 8 July agreement. President Papadopoulos conveyed his readiness to engage constructively in the suggested process. Mr Gambari’s suggestions envisaged immediate commencement of the process involving concurrent bi-communal discussions on day-to-day as well as substantive issues, and subject to progress, the commencement of full-fledged negotiations; all issues submitted by either side be subject to discussion and negotiation; and the ownership of the process rests with the two communities.

Difficulties emerged during the preparatory stage and the process failed to advance as the Turkish side questioned the fundamental elements of the 8 July agreement. Efforts both by the Republic of Cyprus and the UN to overcome procedural difficulties were to no avail. In yet another attempt to achieve a breakthrough and set a process that would bring about the resumption of direct negotiations, the new President Demetris Christofias, soon after his election in February 2008, sought to meet with the Turkish Cypriot leader. At their meeting on
March 21 2008 it was decided to push forward the setting up of a number of working groups and technical committees and their respective agendas. They also decided to meet in three months time to evaluate the work of the working groups and technical committees, with a view to start full-fledged negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. They also agreed on opening Ledra street crossing.

In a statement on
17 April 2008 the President of the UN Security Council welcomed developments. He expressed the hope that they would produce results and prepare the ground for commencement of full-fledged negotiations under the auspices of the Secretary-General’s good offices mission. Moreover, the President reaffirmed the Security Council’s commitment to the reunification of Cyprus based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation and political equality, as set out in relevant Council resolutions. The statement also welcomed the Secretary-General’s readiness to assist the parties in Cyprus and his intention to appoint, on completion of a preparatory period and based on progress, a special adviser to facilitate movement towards a comprehensive settlement.

Ledra street crossing point opened on April 3 2008, while six working groups and seven technical committees commenced work on 18 April. Regrettably progress thus far achieved did not justify resumption of negotiations and President Christofias requested a meeting with the Turkish Cypriot Leader.

During a meeting on
23 May 2008, in the presence of Mr. Zerihoun the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on the island, the two leaders reaffirmed that the basis for a solution is the establishment of a bi-communal and bi-zonal federal Cyprus, with a single sovereignty, international personality and citizenship, with political equality, as prescribed by UN SC Resolutions. They agreed for a new meeting at which progress and its compatibility with the predefined basis, would be assessed. The leaders also decided to pursue the opening of more crossing points and consider the possibility of adopting confidence building measures.

The two leaders met once again on
July 1 2008 and made a first review of the work of the Working Groups and Technical Committees. They also discussed the issues of single sovereignty and citizenship which they agreed in principle. Details of their implementation will be discussed during the full-fledged negotiations. A final review of progress was made on July 25 when the two leaders decided to start full-fledged negotiations on 3 September 2008.

The Government of Cyprus remains committed to seeking a solution to the Cyprus problem which will allow Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike, to fully enjoy the benefits and advantages of European Union membership. It supports a settlement that will allow Cyprus to function effectively within the EU, ensure respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Cypriots, and provide for a peaceful, prosperous and secure future for all the citizens of the island.


For more information you can find on the webpage of the Mininstry of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus.


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