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The Cyprus Issue
The Cyprus issue has deep historical roots. Its modern phase, however, starts with the Turkish invasion in July 1974 and the occupation of the northern part of the Republic of Cyprus.
The Cyprus problem, in its modern form, is a classic case of an international problem consisting in the invasion and occupation by foreign troops of a UN and EU member state.
Thirty-seven years after the Turkish invasion, and despite a plethora of UN resolutions and numerous efforts by the international community, Turkey still refuses to withdraw its occupation troops from Cyprus. Currently, 43,000 Turkish troops are illegally stationed in the northern section of Cyprus, which the UN Secretary General has called one of the most militarised areas in the world.
The Cyprus issue is also a characteristic case of ongoing, flagrant and mass violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms by Turkey. In particular, Turkey violates the rights of Greek-Cypriot refugees, missing persons and their relatives, as well as the enclaved in the occupied territory of the island, has proceeded to illegal settlement and has systematically looted and destroyed cultural heritage in the occupied part of the island.
The generally acknowledged aim of resolving the Cyprus issue as set out in UN resolutions consists in the reunification of the island and the peaceful coexistence of the two communities within a federal state.
The accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the EU in 2004 changed the picture and thus there are new fundamental parameters for the resolution of the Cyprus issue, as any solution will now have to comply fully with the institutional and legal framework of the EU and, of course, with the principles and values on which it is founded. On the other hand, Cyprus’s accession to the European Union offers safety valves for the smooth and normal functioning of a Cypriot state and the peaceful resolution of the two communities. In light of this new picture, the Cyprus problem can no longer be addressed through an anachronistic prism that belongs to the past.
Following a period of relative stalemate following the rejection of the Annan plan by the majority of the Cypriot people in April 2004, new direct negotiations began between the leaders of the two communities with the intermediation of the United Nations, on an initiative by President Christofias.
During the negotiations, views have converged on certain issues, but little progress has been made on crucial issues such as the territorial issue, guarantees, security, expropriated properties, the departure of illegal settlers, etc.). The President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Christofias, put forward a set of proposals to give momentum to the negotiations in order to bring swift results. However, these proposals were rejected by the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot sides.
The main reason for the lack of substantial progress on major issues is the divisive approach of the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot sides, which is centered on the creation of two states – in reality independent – coexisting within the framework of a loose confederation. This stance is not in line with the professed and generally accepted goal of the island’s reunification or with the agreed-upon basis for negotiations or with the framework for the resolution of the Cyprus issue stipulated in UN resolutions or with the goal of the sustainability and single sovereignty of the state of Cyprus and its smooth operation within the EU framework. Turkey’s ongoing efforts to politically upgrade the Turkish Cypriot secessionist entity, which is not recognised by any state other than Turkey, are part of this divisive stance.
Turkey plays a crucial role in determining Turkish Cypriot positions. It has illegally stationed 43,000 troops on the island, has located more than 160,000 Turkish settlers in the occupied section and subsidizes the secessionist entity’s budget with hundreds of millions of euros annually. Unfortunately, despite Ankara’s declarations in favour of negotiations, its true stance is reflected in the occasional statements from Turkish officials regarding two peoples and two states, red lines, the need for recognition of Turkey’s right to intervene in Cyprus at will in future, and the need to change the basis for negotiations and to look for “alternative” solutions.
Turkey has yet to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the United Nations that is recognised by all the members of the international community except for Turkey, and also a member state of the European Union. With regard to this last point, Turkey's recognition of the Republic of Cyprus is an accession prerequisite for Turkey (the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Treaty, EU Declaration of 21 September 2005), and it is a salient paradox that Turkey wishes to join an organization but refuses to recognize one of its full members.
The Cyprus issue is the top priority of Greece’s foreign policy, given, on the one hand, our historical involvement in this issue as a result of our national affiliation with Greek Cypriots, who belong to the broader Hellenic nation and, on the other, that we are one of the three guarantor powers according to the Treaty of Guarantee signed within the framework of the 1960 London-Zurich agreements.
In any event, it is Greece’s main position that the Cypriot people – Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike – will have to decide on their own about their common future, without external interventions. The resolution of the Cyprus issue should be forged by and for the Cypriots themselves.
The Cyprus problem remains an international issue of invasion and occupation. This unacceptable situation is a blatant violation of international law and constitutes a threat to the security and prosperity of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and is a factor for the destabilization of the broader region.
The complete normalization of Greek-Turkish relations is inconceivable and impossible without a just, viable and functional solution on the Cyprus issue.
Greece strongly supports every effort towards finding a mutually acceptable and sustainable solution on the basis of UN resolutions; a solution that complies with the principles and values, the institutional legal framework and acquis of the European Union.
Although the resolution of the Cyprus issue is an urgent need because this issue has been pending for years, it cannot be forged in haste. This is why setting strict timeframes and deadlines is counter-productive. But proposals such as those by the President of the Republic of Cyprus, aimed at imparting momentum to and speeding up the negotiations, are very constructive and should be supported.
By maintaining occupation troops, failing to recognize the Republic of Cyprus and promoting divisive solutions, Turkey is hindering progress on the resolution of the Cyprus issue.
As regards the security of a reunited Cyprus and its people, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, outdated guarantee systems and unilateral rights of intervention for third parties, which are foreign to the way the EU functions, have no place in today’s European reality. The effective and functional participation of a reunited Cyprus within the European Union will be the best possible guarantee for the security and prosperity of all Cypriots.
The situation of Turkish Cypriots is the result of the occupation of the island’s northern part and the creation of a pseudo-entity not recognised by any other member of the international community apart from Turkey. Greece supports financial measures in favour of Turkish Cypriots if these contribute to the rapprochement of the two communities and promote the reunification of the island. But Greece is against actions and measures which upgrade the foundations of the illegal pseudo-entity, because they promote the island’s division rather than its reunification, which is the generally acknowledged goal that, once achieved, would immediately resolve the problem of the Turkish Cypriots’ being cut off from the international community.