At the end of this month, the island of Cyprus is scheduled to undergo another division, adding to its long history of intercommunal splits. At 4 AM on October 31, the southern, Greek side of the island will set its clocks back by one hour in accordance with European winter time. Yet for the first time ever, on the other side of the UN-patrolled buffer zone dividing the south from the Turkish-majority north, time will stay the same. There, in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), the breakaway state recognized only by Turkey, clocks will align with those in Ankara instead, following the Turkish government’s recent decision to abolish daylight saving time.
This new fracture underscores Ankara’s increasing hold over daily life in the north. It also suggests that, despite official optimism that current negotiations will lead to a settlement of the decades-long Cyprus problem, there are strong forces on the ground pulling things in the opposite direction. Should those forces block a resolution, the consequences could extend far beyond separate time zones, affecting the energy and security environment throughout the eastern Mediterranean.
Last April, Mustafa Akinci, a long-time advocate of reunion between Greek and Turkish Cyprus, was elected as president of the TRNC. The election breathed new life into the current round of UN-sponsored talks, which aim to reunite the divided island. Similar talks have been underway since the 1960s, when the unified government of the country collapsed, and especially since the Turkish invasion of the north in 1974. Those talks have generally achieved little. Since October, however, Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastisiades have been attempting to hammer out a deal that would create a unified but federated republic. The proposal would be voted on in simultaneous referenda in the north and south of the island. Anastisiades has stated his belief that “2016 could be the year that we end the unacceptable status quo,” and Akinci claimed in September that a deal was possible “within 90 days.” With
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