Low Hopes in Cyprus

Progress But No Promise of a Reunification Deal

A barrel near the barricade in the UN-controlled buffer zone in Nicosia, Cyprus, January 12, 2017. Yiannis Kourtoglou / Reuters

As an international conference on Cyprus got underway in Crans–Montana, Switzerland on June 28, dozens of Turkish and Greek Cypriot protestors gathered at checkpoints along the UN-patrolled buffer zone in the capital of Nicosia. Singing songs and banging drums in the early summer heat, the demonstrators carried an array of banners. “We want a solution now!” read one. “No more waiting!” demanded another.

Indeed, 54 years have passed since this green line first divided the Cypriot capital. In 1963, intercommunal violence broke out between the island’s Greek Cypriot majority and Turkish Cypriot minority, threatening the country’s stability and bringing UN peacekeepers to the island. Tensions continued, however, eventually culminating in a Greek-backed coup d’état in 1974 that sought to join Cyprus to Greece. In response, Turkey invaded and captured the north, leading to the de facto division of the island. Over four decades of uneasy peace followed, punctuated by efforts to bring about reunification.

In recent years, however, relations between Greek and Turkish Cypriots have warmed. In the spring of 2015, peace talks resumed and a wave of optimism swept across Cyprus. Observers and residents alike hoped that after decades of failed neogitiations, the north and south might finally have a chance of reuniting. And during the talks on Saturday, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued an optimistic statement, saying, “A clear understanding emerged...that might lead to a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus.”

Those hopes may be misplaced, however. The atmosphere had already soured back in January of this year when the first phase of the international conference on Cyprus, held at Mont Pelerin in Switzerland, failed to produce an agreement. Leaders of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities met with British, Greek, and Turkish foreign ministers, as well as with an EU observer, to try and resolve the remaining sticking points to a deal. Yet the key issues—particularly over the island’s future security arrangements—proved insurmountable. Since Cyprus’ independence from the British in 1960, Turkey, Greece, and the

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