Cyprus became an independent sovereign state in August 1960. Unfortunately, since the invasion and continuing military occupation by Turkey in 1974, the island republic remains forcibly divided. The dire consequences of this invasion, occupation and forcible division have been systematic violations of human rights, massive colonization of areas under occupation, property usurpation, the destruction of cultural heritage and ethnic separation.
The Cyprus question remains unresolved, an affront to the international legal order, and a threat to regional stability. Turkey’s actions have been condemned by unanimous UN Security Council resolutions, UN General Assembly resolutions See Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, * international court decisions, and decisions by other major international and regional organizations. Regrettably, most of these resolutions and decisions remain unimplemented. As a result, the Republic of Cyprus is the only country in Europe since the end of the Cold War that remains forcibly divided because of foreign military occupation.
On 1 May 2004, the Republic of Cyprus joined the European Union without achieving the desired goal of accession as a unified country. The government and people of Cyprus, however, remain committed to a viable settlement that would allow the genuine, peaceful, and secure reunification of their country, in conformity with European norms. Only then will all Cypriots be able to benefit from EU membership.
On 24 April 2004, the Greek Cypriot community overwhelmingly rejected a proposal submitted by the UN Secretary-General for the settlement of the Cyprus problem because it did not provide for a genuine reunification of Cyprus, its society, economy, and institutions. However, the government and the Greek Cypriot community remain firmly committed to the Secretary-General’s mission of good offices and for a sustained peace process that will facilitate a comprehensive settlement by the two communities themselves.
The solution must be based on the United Nations resolutions on Cyprus
President Christofias reiterated that commitment in his inaugural address and outlined the parameters of the solution he envisions when he stated that:
The solution of the Cyprus problem will be the top priority of my government. The aim of our Presidency is to achieve a just, viable and functional solution that will terminate the occupation and colonization of our country; a solution that will restore the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and unity of the Republic of Cyprus, and will exclude any rights for military intervention in the internal affairs of our country by foreign powers; a solution that will reunite the territory, the people, the institutions, and the economy of our country in the framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
The federal, bizonal, bicommunal Republic of Cyprus must have one single sovereignty and international personality and one single citizenship. The solution must be based on the United Nations resolutions on Cyprus and be compatible with international and the EU law, as well as with international conventions on human rights.
We demand that the solution restore and safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all the people of Cyprus, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians, and Latins, including the right of return and the right to property for the refugees.
We demand that the solution provide for the withdrawal of the Turkish occupation troops and the demilitarization of the Republic of Cyprus. The ultimate goal remains the demilitarization of all of Cyprus.
We support consistently the political equality of the two communities in the framework of a federation, as this is defined in the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.
The president steadfastly clarified on many occasions that the settlement sought would provide for the evolution of the unitary Republic of Cyprus into a federal republic. On 19 June 2008, he stated:
I categorically reject certain ideas promoted by Turkey and others for a so-called “virgin birth” or of a “new partnership state.”
Cyprus’ EU membership is an added reason, while there are many more, as to why it cannot be a virgin birth or a new partnership between two states. What is actually realistically feasible to expect is the continuation of the Republic of Cyprus, which will evolve into a federal state within the agreed framework of a bizonal, bicommunal federation.
After taking a series of initiatives, President Christofias held several meetings with the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mr Mehmet Ali Talat, between March and July 2008. During these meetings, the basis of a settlement was clarified. At their fourth meeting on 25 July 2008, it was decided that full-fledged direct negotiations between the two, under the auspices of the United Nations, would start on 3 September in an effort to reach a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
The formal negotiations were launched in Nicosia with a meeting between President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Talat, in the presence of the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Cyprus, Mr Alexander Downer, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus, Mr Tayé-Brook Zerihoun. In his message on the launch of the talks, the Secretary-General stated that: “The United Nations supports and encourages both parties as they take this historic step together, so as to reach a negotiated settlement to reunify the island for the benefit of all the people of Cyprus.” He also pledged that the UN will provide “unwavering support” to the process.
President Christofias had previously explained that: The principal players in this ongoing process are the leaders of the two communities. The process is being carried out in the framework of the United Nations, with the UN Secretary-General and his collaborators playing an assisting role. Bearing in mind the traumatic experiences we went through in 2004–with the process of tight deadlines and arbitration–we have made it clear to the international community that the leaders of the two communities will continue to be the primary interlocutors in the dialogue. In this way, we will all avoid repeating the mistakes of the recent past. We are pursuing a settlement by Cypriots for Cypriots, and this is understood by the international community as well.
The President reiterated this position in his address to the UN General Assembly on 24 September 2008 where he pointed out that: “The Cypriots themselves must build the state they envision for their society. The role of the Secretary-General and of the international community is to assist and to support.” Any attempt to impose or import non-Cypriot inspired and improvised models for a settlement, he said, will be rejected by the people of Cyprus.
**See Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, United Nations Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions on Cyprus 1960–2006 (Nicosia: Press and Information Office, Republic of Cyprus, 2006)
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