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.
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