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The Cyprus Issue
1. The Cyprus Issue today
The Cyprus issue has deep historical roots and various internal and international dimensions. However, since the illegal Turkish invasion in July 1974 and the occupation, since then, of some 37% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, it is, clearly, first and foremost an international problem of invasion and occupation by foreign forces of territory of a UN and EU member state, in direct violation of the UN Charter and a plethora of UN Security Council resolutions.
For some 42 years now, Turkey refuses to withdraw its illegal occupation troops which have rendered Cyprus the most militarized area in the world. The Cyprus issue is also a typical case of ongoing, flagrant and mass violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms by Turkey. Specifically, Turkey is violating the rights of Greek-Cypriot refugees, missing persons and their relatives, as well as those living in the enclave in the occupied part of the island, while continuing systematically with the illegal settlement as well as the destruction of cultural heritage in the occupied section of Cyprus.
The international community has repeatedly expressed itself with regard to the Cyprus issue, condemning the invasion and demanding the withdrawal of the occupation forces in a long series of Decisions and Resolutions in international fora, including the UN General Assembly and Security Council, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Commonwealth countries.
In November 1983, the Turkish side proceeded to the unilateral declaration of independence of the pseudo-state in the occupied part of Cyprus. UN Security Council resolutions 541/1983 and 550/1984 condemned this illegal unilateral act, calling for its withdrawal and calling upon all states not to recognize the illegal secessionist entity or help it in any way.
The UN resolutions call on the two communities to resolve the political problem of Cyprus through negotiations within the framework of respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus, the speedy withdrawal of foreign troops, the ceasing of any foreign intervention in the affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, and the undertaking of emergency measures for the return of all refugees to their hearths.
The United Nations resolutions also stipulate the basis of an agreed solution, which, moreover, given Cyprus’s capacity as a member state of the European Union, will have to be fully compatible with the institutional and legal EU framework and to safeguard the continuation of Cyprus’ effective participation in the decision-making processes of the European Union.
The ongoing cooperation and coordination between Greece and Cyprus constitute a decisive factor in support of the efforts for achieving of a comprehensive, mutually acceptable, just and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem.
From Turkey, we anticipate to see concrete initiatives, which would demonstrate in practice its will to terminate, at long last, its illegal occupation and facilitate a mutually acceptable and comprehensive solution of the Cyprus issue. However, in spite of Turkish government declarations of support to the currently ongoing negotiations in the UN framework, Ankara seems to persist with policies aiming at the consolidation, international upgrading and, at the same time, a total internal Turkification of the illegal secessionist entity in the occupied area.
Moreover, in blatant violation of its obligations to the European Union (Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement, EU Declaration of 21 September 2005), Turkey persists in its refusal to normalize its relations with and recognize the Republic of Cyprus.
2. Current phase of the bicommunal talks
The currently intensively continuing inter-communal talks, are taking place on the basis of the Joint Declaration of 11 February 2014. Among other things, this declaration provides for interdependent negotiation of all of the various aspects of the Cyprus problem, including the chapters on governance and power sharing, the property issue, European Union and economy matters, territory and the international aspect of security. The Declaration also stipulates that only an agreed settlement can be subsequently put to separate and simultaneous referenda in the two communities, and that “Any kind of arbitration is excluded”.
The talks were suspended in October 2014, due to renewed Turkish provocations and violations of the Cypriot EEZ that lasted for nearly seven months.
The resumption of the talks, under the direction of President Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Akinci, was made possible on 15 May 2015. Since then, the talks continue at an intensive pace. However, all the negotiating chapters remain open and, as Presdent Anastasiades stated on 24 June 2016, it is still premature “to reach safe conclusions from the progress that is being made”.
Cyprus was one of the issues discussed during the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s visit in Greece on 18 June. Prime Minister Tsipras reiterated that the Cyprus problem is, first and foremost, a problem of invasion and occupation and that Greece supports the intercommunal talks in Cyprus “aiming at a just and viable solution on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and Cyprus’ capacity as an EU member state. A solution which shall reinforce and consolidate the sense of security for the Cypriot people as a whole, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, without occupation troops and anachronistic systems of guarantees”. On his side, Mr Ban Ki Moon welcomed the jointly declared commitment of President Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mr Akinci to succeeed in their efforts to reach agreement within this year. The UN Secretary General also expressed his appreciation for “the significant high level of support which Greece offers to the talks”.
3. GREECE’S POSITIONS ON THE CYPRUS ISSUE
The termination of the Turkish occupation and colonization of the occupied part of Cyprus, and the finding of a comprehensive, mutually acceptable, just and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem is a top national priority of Greek foreign policy, with obvious significance for Greek-Turkish relations and the peace and stability of the wider region.
Despite past disappointments and the ongoing difficulties, the bicommunal talks, with the contribution of the UN Secretary General’s Good Offices, which have a facilitative character, remain the only method accepted by all interested parties for negotiating an agreed settlement of the Cyprus problem.
Greece rejects quadrilateral or similar negotiation schemas, which ignore the Republic of Cyprus and, furthermore, are essentially aimed at perpetuating the anachronistic 1960 system of guarantees and at the unacceptable equation of the responsibilities of the occupation power that is Turkey with Greece’s efforts to defend the Republic of Cyprus – a member state of the UN and the EU – and assist the effort to resolve the Cyprus problem through negotiations.
Greece supports the talks being carried out under the direction of President Anastasiades and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Akinci, to find a comprehensive, just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem.
The basis for a settlement is determined by the high-level agreements of the two communities and the resolutions of the UN Security Council.
Any solution must also be fully compatible with the EU acquis. Permanent derogations from the acquis cannot be accepted by either the Republic of Cyprus or the European Union as a whole.
There can be no comprehensive agreed settlement of the Cyprus problem without the full withdrawal of Turkish occupation forces and the termination of the anachronistic system of guarantees of 1960.
Greece does not intervene in the negotiation of internal aspects of the Cyprus problem, for which the Cypriot government has exclusive competence.
The offshore water pipeline linking Turkey to occupied Cyprus, inaugurated in October 2015, is aimed at consolidating the occupation as well as maximizing Turkish influence on and control over Cyprus. It is yet another unilateral and illegal action that confirms Turkey’s persistence in the vain effort to impose faits accomplis. As such, it can have only negative repercussions for the bicommunal talks.
Greece endeavours to become a transit country for Cypriot, Egyptian and Israeli natural gas en route to Europe, whether via vessels transporting LNG from export terminals in Cyprus, Egypt and/or Israel, or via the “East Med” pipeline. This is the framework for the development of the network of existing trilateral collaborations, as well as for their extension, initially to Jordan.
Greece supports the Republic of Cyprus’s sovereign rights in its Exclusive Economic Zone, which are not linked to the process for resolving the Cyprus problem.