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Cyprus remains a divided state
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3785 posts
 29 Apr 2010 Thu 08:30 pm

Cyprus remains a divided state

By Gwynne Dyer
The Pioneer
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The outcome of the recent poll in the Turkish Republic of Northern
Cyprus means that the status quo will become permanent but the
broader strategic realities will start to change

The real problem in Cyprus is not that the status quo is
unsustainable," said Mr Phedon Nicolaides of the European Institute
of Public Administration in an article in the Cyprus Mail last
September. "On the contrary, it is that it´s virtually impossible to
move away from the (status quo)."

He didn´t need the word "virtually". The outcome of the recent
election in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus means that the
status quo that has prevailed on the divided island for the past 36
years will become permanent -- but it also means that the broader
strategic realities in the region will start to change. The changes
will not be to the long-term advantage of the Greek-ruled Republic of

Most of Cyprus´s people have spoken Greek for three thousand years,
but there has also been a Turkish-speaking minority since the Ottoman
conquest in the 16th century. The seeds of inter-communal conflict
were already there under Ottoman and British imperial rule, but they
only grew into a full-scale confrontation when the EOKA guerrilla
movement launched its campaign to drive the British out in the 1950s.

Unfortunately, EOKA was not actually seeking independence, which the
Turkish minority on the island and Turkey itself would have accepted.
Its goal was ´enosis´, union with Greece, although the Greek mainland
was 800 km to the west and the Turkish coast was only 75 km away.
Neither the Turkish-Cypriots nor Ankara would accept that, and the
Turkish-Cypriots began to arm themselves too.

Turkey, Greece and Britain were all much more concerned about the
Soviet threat in the region, however, so in 1960 they imposed a deal
on Cyprus that gave the island independence as a binational republic.
The Turkish-speaking minority got 30 per cent of the seats in
Parliament and a veto on any changes in the Constitution.

Britain, Greece and Turkey all guaranteed the settlement, but it only
lasted three years, mainly because EOKA remained a strong force in
the island and was still determined on ´enosis´. Fighting broke out
in 1963, and the Turkish-Cypriots were driven into enclaves that were
effectively besieged by Greek-Cypriot forces.

The United Nations sent in a peace-keeping force that froze the
situation for the next 11 years, but in 1974 the Greek military junta
sponsored a bloody military coup in Cyprus. The elected Government
was replaced by a band of former EOKA fighters who promised to unify
the island with Greece, and Turkey called on Britain (which still had
military bases in Cyprus) to fulfill its duty as guarantor and

When Britain refused, the Turks invaded. 150,000 Greek-Cypriots fled
or were driven south before the advancing Turkish forces, while
50,000 Turkish-Cypriots living in the south sought safety behind the
Turkish lines. When the fighting ended, all the Turkish-Cypriots were
in the north, and all the Greek-Cypriots were in the south.

The Greek-Cypriots had brought disaster upon themselves by ignoring
strategic realities and bidding too high, and that pattern has
continued down to the present. A UN-backed proposal to reunify the
island as a federal republic (with a limited right of return for the
refugees) was supported by the Turkish-Cypriots but rejected by the
Greek-Cypriots in parallel referendums in 2004.

On April 18 Mr Dervis Eroglu, who opposes reunification, was elected
President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and for all
practical purposes the long story reached its end. The island will
remain permanently divided along the current lines, although it may
be many years before other countries acknowledge that fact by
formally recognising the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

This fact will have far-reaching consequences, for it means that
Turkey will never join the EU. Without a settlement in Cyprus, the
Greek veto on Turkish membership is permanent -- but Greece´s
leverage over Turkey will vanish once Ankara abandons its quest to
join the EU.

There is no reason to believe that the present Turkish Government
would do anything to disturb the status quo in Cyprus. Perhaps no
Turkish Government ever will. But Turkey is re-emerging as the
dominant regional power after a century-long gap: Greece is no match
for it, and the EU is not a military organisation.

Greek-Cypriots may believe that their own EU membership is an
adequate guarantee of their security, but it is not. In a future
where Turkey is no longer constrained by the prospect of EU
membership, their security will depend mainly on Turkish goodwill.

The writer is an independent journalist based in London.


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