Cyprus: Between reunification and division


Since 1974, three generations of Cypriots have lived with the Cyprus problem as a result of their inability to reconcile their demands and formulate a common vision for Cyprus independently of the foreign interests involved in the island.

In the decades that have passed since Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, Turkish Cypriots have succeeded in improving their political position through their relocation in the occupied northern part of the island and the creation of statehood within distinct geographical boundaries delimited by the 1974 ceasefire. However, Turkey’s and Turkish Cypriots’ expectations of international legalization of the spoils of war have not materialized, inasmuch as such a development would have upset the fundamental principles on which the current international order and international law are based. Forty-one years later, Turkish Cypriots have been living in international isolation, and in danger of permanent loss of their identity, whilst their fabricated statehood has not turned them into masters of “their” land. But things could not have been different. That piece of land does not belong only to them, and, in any case, Turkey has made it clear that the real master of that territory is the one who pays. In other words, Ankara is the master of the occupied northern part of Cyprus.

On the opposite side of the Green Line, since 1974 Greek Cypriots have managed to maintain the Cyprus Republic as an internationally recognized state, a member of the United Nations and the European Union. However, this does not tell us the whole story. For instance, the Republic of Cyprus has never promoted either the principles of equality of its citizens nor the reformation of its democratic institutions for the enhancement of its functioning. The deficiencies contributed, inter alia, to its economic collapse.

The prolongation of the Cyprus problem has served the political elites on both sides of the Green Line as the perfect alibi to cover wrongdoings. At the same time, the existence of the Cyprus problem has drained our societies of their creativity and dynamism. After 41 years of living with the Cyprus problem, Greek and Turkish Cypriots have reached their limits.

Under these conditions, the current status quo is not an option on the negotiating table, in the absence of a better solution. In other words, the current status quo, which implies the protraction of the Cyprus problem remaining unresolved and the de facto division of the island, has become the worst-case scenario. Therefore, the time has come for a compromise between the two communities and the pursuit of either an agreed de jure division of the island, or its reunification under a viable solution of a bizonal, bicommunal federation, and in accordance with the European acquis communautaire.

Those who understand the complexities, risks and uncertainties of a bizonal, bicommunal federal system of governance would probably prefer the option of an agreed permanent de jure division, one that would respond to the necessary territorial adjustments and security concerns of both sides. However, such a solution will finalize and consolidate an artificial division of the island, depriving future generations of Cypriots of the prospect of an environment of creative coexistence. An agreed division of the island into two sovereign ethnic-states could come up as a clean solution; however, the concept of ethnic purity does not fit in with the ideas of a postmodern state.

Therefore, Greek and Turkish Cypriots could either choose reunification and coexistence under a viable, Europeanized state, or a de jure division of the island. The final choice depends on their readiness to realize and formulate their real common vision and interests.

* Melanie Antoniou is a political correspondent for Kathimerini’s Cyprus edition.