22 Feb 2017

Cyprus reunification talks halted



Talks for Cyprus to be reunified were in tatters on Wednesday, after the Turkish Cypriot side said it would not be attending this week’s meeting, amid increasing tensions, partly due to right-wing Greek Cypriots’ desires to unite with Greece in the past.

Unification talks were abruptly halted between Greek leader Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, over a verdict made by the Greek Cypriot parliament to honor the 1950 Enosis referendum seeking a union with Greece.

Even though the Enosis referendum was abandoned by the Greek Cypriots decades ago, the decision to commemorate the date in schools was a step too far for the Turkish Cypriots, who state that Enosis was the source of division.

The two leaders, who have been embroiled in peace talks for nearly two years, were meant to meet once a week, with their next meeting planned to take place on Thursday. However, Greek Cypriot officials, and Turkey’s NTV channel have both confirmed that Turkish Cypriot leader Akinci will no longer be attending the talks.

In a recent tweet regarding the matter, the Cypriot leader Anastasiades stated: “I am ready to continue the dialogue at any time.”

There was no immediate dialogue in response to the President’s tweet, however the Turkish side has been insisting that the Greek Cypriot parliament vote on Enosis should be annulled, stating that it was a gross display of thoughtlessness to concerns of their community.

In what seems like a tactful attempt, President Anastasiades has distanced himself from parliament. He has also admitted that the vote on Enosis was badly timed, incorrect and pointless, however the President went on to add that the decision to halt talks by the Turkish Cypriot side was an overreaction.

Turkish Cypriots have maintained, that the motivation to unify with Greece was the main driving force of tension which had resulted into violent encounters and has created a wedge that still exists in communities today.

During the two years of unification talks, both sides had been making headway to reunite Cyprus as a bizonal, bicommunal federation, although the referendum row has highlighted how delicate the progress for unification is.

When the vote was held in 1950, 95% of Greek Cypriots voted in favour of the unofficial referendum, which was then followed by over 20 years of conflict and division between Cypriot Greeks and Turks on the island. This vote was not recognised by Britain, who were Cyprus’ colonial leader at the time.

Cyprus was then split by the 1974 Turkish invasion which was the result of a brief Greek-inspired coup by union supporters with Greece.

The motion to commemorate Enosis was submitted by a small Greek Cypriot party with links to Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party.

Despite the left-wing main opposition party opposed the motion, an abstention by Anastasiades’ Conservative party meant it got passed, with votes from parties that have remained dubious about progress in the unification talks.